BASF will build a commercial-scale black mass recycling plant for batteries in Schwarzheide, Germany. Commissioning is planned for early 2024. The production of black mass is the first step in the battery recycling process and is based on the mechanical treatment of the batteries.
Once a battery reaches the end of its life, it is dismantled and shredded. The shredded material is then processed into a “black mass”. The black mass contains large quantities of the main metals used in the production of cathode materials (CAM): lithium, nickel, cobalt, and manganese. These critical materials can then be extracted from the black mass and reused in new battery production or new products and/or applications. The black mass will be the feedstock for the commercial hydrometallurgical refinery for battery recycling that BASF plans to build in the middle of this decade. This allows the production of salts or metal hydroxides that can be used as feedstocks.
Battery recycling is an important lever to reduce the carbon footprint of battery-powered electric vehicles and key to meeting the circular economy-focused policy requirements expected under the proposed EU Battery Regulation. These will cover the recycling efficiency of lithium-ion batteries, as well as material recovery and recycled content targets for nickel, cobalt, and lithium.
Schwarzheide is an ideal location, as there are many electric car manufacturers and cell producers in Central Europe. Large treatment plants for batteries and battery waste already exist in China, Japan, and South Korea. Many of these plants integrate black mass treatment through a hydrometallurgical process. In Europe, the amount of batteries from electric veicles that can be recycled is still relatively small.
- BASF SE, Ludwigshafen, Germany