Fortum is expanding its lithium-ion battery recycling capacity by building a new hydrometallurgical plant in Harjavalta, Finland.

The company maintains the EUR24m (US$29m) investment will be a step in increasing Fortum’s hydrometallurgical recycling capacity and enable production of sustainable battery chemicals.

The new facility will be able to recover scarce metals from old electric vehicle lithium-ion batteries, while also recycling various waste fractions derived throughout the battery supply chain.

With rapid electrification of transportation and the move towards renewable energy sources, demand for lithium-ion batteries is expected to grow more than ten-fold by 2030, significantly increasing the need for critical metals used in production of lithium-ion batteries.

Fortum’s new Harjavalta facility will help meet rising demand for recycled battery materials and enable sustainable recovery of lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese, which are all essential in manufacturing new EV batteries.

“Fortum is investing in a greener future by further investing in its hydrometallurgical recycling facilities,” said Fortum Recycling & Waste VP, Kalle Saarimaa.

“The new facility in Harjavalta will create approximately 30 jobs in the near future, but its impact will be felt throughout Europe as it will be the largest facility in the market of its kind once completed.”

“Our solid offering covers several key segments of the battery value chain and we look forward to our collaboration with key players in those fields. As the electrification of transportation gathers pace, the raw materials gap faced by the automotive industry is increasingly becoming a serious challenge.

“Our new facility will strongly support the existing Finnish and European battery manufacturing ecosystems, but it will also help the entire industry produce more sustainable batteries in Europe.”

Fortum uses a combination of mechanical and low-CO2 hydrometallurgical technologies to recycle the batteries as sustainably as possible and with the lowest carbon footprint. The lithium-ion batteries are first disassembled and treated during a mechanical process at Fortum’s plant in Ikaalinen.

The battery’s black mass, containing critical metals, is collected and then taken to Harjavalta for hydrometallurgical processing. Fortum is currently operating an industrial-scale hydrometallurgical pilot plant in Harjavalta.

The new facility to be built, which is expected to be operating in 2023, will enable a significant increase in Fortum’s processing and recycling capacity.

The new plant will enable Fortum to recycle the major part of EV batteries reaching their end-of-life in Europe.

In March, Fortum’s hydrometallurgical battery recycling operations were identified as one of four Fortum projects to be shortlisted for the EU’s Innovation Fund for low-carbon technologies. The four Fortum projects made it through to a shortlist of 70 candidates for financing from the EU’s EUR1bn first Innovation Fund.

Fortum has also received IPCEI (Important Project of Common European Interest) grants from Business Finland in conjunction with the EU Commission’s European Battery Innovation project.

The grants were given in conjunction with the development of Fortum’s mechanical recycling plant in Ikaalinen, Finland and the hydrometallurgical recycling plant in Harjavalta.