Fortum is expanding its battery recycling operations further in conjunction with Finland's national battery strategy.

In February 2021, Fortum will open a new mechanical recycling processing plant located in Ikaalinen, Finland.

The new plant, which is expected to employ up to 20 staff, will complement Fortum's existing hydrometallurgical pilot facility in Harjavalta, Finland, which is already capable of operating on an industrial scale.

Fortum has been developing ways to optimise the entire lifecycle of lithium-ion batteries for several years and aims to further expand its battery operations. Partnering with industrial and infrastructure customers is one of Fortum's priorities. 

"Our new plant in Ikaalinen will enable us to leverage our existing recycling operations in Finland and will give us the annual capacity to recycle approximately 3,000 tonnes of used batteries, corresponding to about 10,000 EV batteries," said head of Business Line Batteries at Fortum, Tero Holländer.

"We aim to steadily increase this capacity in the coming months and years in order to bridge the raw materials gap faced by the automotive industry with the electrification of transportation. Providing recycled and sustainable raw materials for batteries will bring significant value not only to our partners and customers but also to Finland's battery industry, which is well poised to take the lead in the supply chain for EV batteries." 

Fortum notes the global lithium-ion battery recycling market was worth around EUR1.3bn (US$1.6bn)  in 2019, but it is expected to boom in the coming years to more than EUR20bn.   

Many current operators which recycle battery metals often do so by smelting, which results in lower material recovery rates and higher emissions. In order to recycle used lithium-ion batteries efficiently, safely and with the lowest possible CO2 footprint, Fortum has taken an approach that includes using both mechanical and hydrometallurgical methods for the recycling process; this approach can reach a recovery rate of up to 95% of the metals included in the valuable active materials of a battery's black mass. 

Fortum's mechanical recycling process has been designed to complement the hydrometallurgical process and has been designed to minimise emissions and dust. During the process, used EV batteries are shredded and the metals are separated to create a black mass.

This black mass is then delivered to Fortum's processing facility in Harjavalta where a hydrometallurgical process is applied to create new recycled raw materials, which can be used in new battery products.