POSCO, the world’s fourth-largest steelmaker, has succeeded in commercializing its method to produce lithium extracted from recycling batteries for the first time in the world. The produced lithium will be supplied to domestic battery makers, such as Samsung SDI and LG Chem.
POSCO announced that it held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Feb. 7 to mark the opening of the POSCO Lithium Extraction (PosLX) plant in Gwangyang, South Jeolla Province. The new factory is capable of producing 2,500 tons of lithium carbonate, which is a key material in secondary batteries, per year. Since lithium can be easily ionized in the air, it is stabilized and distributed as a form of lithium carbonate.
POSCO’s lithium production technology can extract lithium phosphate from dead batteries and then convert it to lithium carbonate. It has become the world’s first company that secured a patented technology that can mass produce lithium carbonate converted from lithium phosphate. Lithium phosphate extracted from disused batteries will be supplied from recycling companies.
The 2,500 tons of lithium carbonate to be produced by POSCO is enough to make batteries for roughly 70 million laptops. South Korean battery makers have been wholly relying on imported lithium so far because there were no domestic lithium suppliers. However, POSCO supplying the material directly to battery makers will stabilize the supply chain.
Starting with PosLX plant in Gwangyang, POSCO plans to establish its annual production system of 40,000 tons at home and abroad, strengthening its position as a global lithium producer.
Chairman Kwon said, “We will promote our new future growth engines with the differentiated competitiveness in the energy material technology, by developing high-purity nickel for anode material as well as anode-cathode materials in addition to lithium for batteries.”
As the production of mobile devices have recently expanded, the demand of lithium-ion batteries is rapidly growing. Accordingly, the global demand of lithium carbonate for batteries increased from 6,000 tons in 2002 to 66,000 tons in 2015. When electric vehicles and energy storage systems become popular in the future, the demand will rise further to more than 180,000 tons in 2025.