Tag Archives: BASF

FBICRC’s battery value chain plans accelerate with cathode precursor pilot plant launch

The Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre (FBICRC) has launched its flagship project – the Cathode Precursor Production Pilot Plant – in Western Australia.

Backed by 19 industry, research and government participants, the launch represents a major step in Australia’s journey to expand its presence throughout the global battery value chain, it said.

The first of its kind in Australia, the Cathode Precursor Production Pilot Plant will establish the technology and capabilities for Australia to design and build cathode precursor manufacturing facilities on a commercial and industrial scale.

The FBICRC explained: “Cathode precursors are precisely engineered materials, the highest cost component of a cell, and a crucial element of the battery value chain. The FBICRC’s report – ‘Future Charge – Building Australia’s Battery Industries’ – identified establishing an active materials manufacturing capability as an immediate priority for Australia to move up the global value chain, which could deliver A$1 billion ($672 million) to the economy and support 4,800 jobs by 2030.”

The Cathode Precursor Production Pilot Plant capitalises on Australia’s strong position in mining and its emerging battery metal refining industry. The facility will link with other FBICRC flagship projects across Australia, including the National Battery Testing Centre at the Queensland University of Technology, battery materials research at the University of Technology Sydney, electrolyte research at Deakin University and battery anode research at the University of Melbourne.

Shannon O’Rourke, CEO of the FBICRC, said: “The launch of the Cathode Precursor Production Pilot Plant is the culmination of several years of hard work, collaboration and integration by industry-leading partners and academic institutions, to progress the current and future needs of industry. We’re delighted to see this world-class facility up and running.

“The incoming government has committed to a National Battery Strategy which will help to seize local battery manufacturing opportunities. The Cathode Precursor Production Pilot Plant will be a key enabler to build an Australian manufacturing capability.”

The global battery market is expected to grow 9-10 times by 2030 and 40-fold by 2050. In a net-zero world, between now and 2050 over A$23 trillion will be spent on batteries, according to the FBICRC. Australia is positioned to capture more of this value given it has leading resources of all raw materials required to make high performance batteries – nickel, cobalt, manganese, graphite and lithium.

Cathode precursor materials are further processed to create cathodes in the battery cell. The performance, durability, safety, and operating envelope of a cell are impacted by the properties of precursor materials. Composition, shape, and surface properties must be controlled closely to ensure a cell performs reliably over many years.

Over 18-months, the plant will run a series of test campaigns through four fully integrated and automated P-CAM production units, provided by BASF. The four units will enable the Cathode Precursor Production Pilot Plant to run different compositions and ratios of chemistries simultaneously, or to run the same chemistries under four different conditions, changing variables such as temperature, pH or stirring rate. Produced P-CAM is then lithiated, calcined and electrochemically tested at the FBICRC-funded Electrochemical Testing Facility at the Queensland University of Technology.

BHP Nickel West has also provided equipment for the precursor facility, repurposed from its nickel sulphate pilot plant.

The Cathode Precursor Production Pilot Plant will not only deliver the technical capabilities required to build commercial scale P-CAM manufacturing facilities, it will help educate and upskill the next generation for a future battery industry, it said.

O’Rourke concluded: “Australia has the potential to develop into a competitive player in the international batteries industry. The Pilot Plant launch is a significant step in developing the on-shore capabilities and industry knowledge to create thousands of jobs and add billions of dollars to our economy.”

Jessica Farrell, Asset President, Nickel West, said: “The launch of the Cathode Precursor Pilot Plant is a vital step towards developing a future growth industry here in Western Australia. The launch of this plant, made possible through the repurposing of equipment from our nickel sulphate pilot plant, will allow the FBICRC and the State Government to explore further options for a downstream battery materials manufacturing industry. This is another exciting step for BHP as a major supplier of nickel, a commodity highly sought after by car and battery manufactures across the globe.”

Project participants include: BASF Australia Limited, BHP Nickel West, Queensland University of Technology, Curtin University, CSIRO, Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia, University of Technology Sydney, HEC Group Pty Ltd, JordProxa Pty Ltd, Ardea Resources Limited, IGO Limited, Blackstone Minerals Limited, Cobalt Blue Holdings Limited, Calix Limited, Alpha HPA Limited, Lycopodium Limited, ChemX Materials Limited, EV Metals Group PLC and Allkem Ltd (formerly Galaxy Resources Limited).

Transform or be marginalised: industry experts explore the future of mining

What will the future of mining look like? Why does the industry need to change? How can mining embrace innovation? These were just some of the questions pondered when a panel of industry experts came together to discuss the need for change in the mining industry from an operator, solution, technology and investor perspective at IntelliSense.io’s recent ‘Inspirations20’ event.

In this keynote session, IntelliSense.io’s Founder and CEO, Sam G Bose, was joined by Damien Caby, Senior Vice President Oilfield & Mining Solutions, BASF; Ippei Akiyoshi, CVC Mineral Resources Group, Mitsubishi; and Cleve Lightfoot, Head of Innovation, BHP.

Central to this discussion was the notion that mining technology and processes have become outdated.

“We’re dealing with technology and processes that were developed about 100 years ago, that aren’t apt for what comes next,” BHP’s Lightfoot explained. “What we’ve done in between is we’ve made them bigger, better and more efficient and we’ve done a good job at that. What we haven’t focused on is how the context in which we operate has changed, and it’s changing more and more rapidly.”

When designing new technologies for the industry, IntelliSense.io’s Bose explained that demand for sustainability solutions has become a top priority.

“We’re seeing the next generation of miners who are entering the industry are becoming vocal components of this change to be able to mine in a more sustainable way,” he said. “They’re also looking for different systems which have access to information in real time, they can make decisions on data, and we’re also seeing this acting as a big driver for the industry to look at different ways to operate.”

Mitsubishi’s Akiyoshi supported this notion, adding investors are also increasingly interested in mining company’s environmental consciousness.

“Creating good economic value is not enough; to be in good shape, mining companies need to show that they are responsible and care about the environment,” he said.

Akiyoshi added: “I think mining has not been a consumer-oriented business in the past, but now the big, influential companies like Tesla and Apple are talking about the importance to think about where the materials in their products come from, and in what kind of operation that material is produced. In this case, we’re indirectly exposed to consumer’s consciousness and awareness of environmental value, so this has forced us to think more seriously about how to change.”

BASF’s Caby added that from an operational perspective, the demand for ethically-sourced and environmentally-conscious material is also heavily influencing the direction of the mining industry.

“We see that, both as a supplier to the mining sector and a supplier to the battery industry, there are tremendous changes in the nature, the quality of metals that are going to be required for the world, which in itself is a major driver for change,” he explained.

“I just don’t think we’re going to provide the nickel, the coper and cobalt for e-mobility the same way that 20 years ago the industry was able to react to the surge in demand for rare earths, and I think overall that’s the biggest driver of change.”

With the pressure to innovate or perish, panellists conceded it may appear difficult for mining companies to know where to start, but prioritising opportunities was key.

“We’re great at building big infrastructure projects, but we need to learn how to figure out how we take little bits and transform through little bits. So, accept the ambiguity, and the risk associated with these things through bites we can actually manage,” Lightfoot said.

Caby suggested that for mining operators unsure of how to start their innovation journey, the most pragmatic option may be to start with unlocking the value in their operational data.

“How do we start our journey of innovation? In our experience, it really starts with understanding of the situation of the mine and really diving into the situation of what’s the challenge, and that’s all really data based,” he said.

“That’s the reason behind our [Intelligent Mine] partnership with IntelliSense.io, that we can really accelerate that initiation and make it more effective by leveraging the power of digital. You can have much easier access to information, you can measure the impact of the improvements you make and correct the results for changes in feed and operating conditions, you can make simulations which really help address risk concerns.

“If you can run scenarios, if you can put boundaries, if you can try and see what can happen worse case on the computer compared to trying in real life, you really have a very powerful tool to enable innovation.”

BASF chooses Harjavalta, Finland, for battery materials production hub

As part of BASF’s €400 million ($460 million) multi-step investment plan, it has selected Harjavalta, Finland, as the first location for a battery materials production hub serving the European automotive market.

The plant will be constructed adjacent to the nickel and cobalt refinery owned by Norilsk Nickel, which is cooperating with BASF on the supply of raw materials for future battery materials production for lithium-ion batteries in Europe.

The investment builds upon initial battery materials production started in Harjavalta this year.

Start-up of the hub is planned for late 2020, enabling the supply of approximately 300,000 full electric vehicles per year with BASF battery materials, BASF said. The new plant will use locally-generated renewable energy sources, including hydro, wind and biomass.

Additionally, BASF and Nornickel have signed a long-term, market-based supply agreement for nickel and cobalt feedstock from Nornickel’s metal refinery. BASF said: “The agreement will establish a locally sourced and secure supply of raw materials for battery production in Europe.”

Kenneth Lane, President, BASF’s Catalysts division, said: “With the investment in Harjavalta, BASF will be present in all major regions with local production and increased customer proximity further supporting the rapidly growing electric vehicle market.

“Combined with our Nornickel cooperation, we are creating a strong platform that connects the efforts between industry leaders in raw material supply and battery materials technology and production.”

Jeffrey Lou, Senior Vice President, Battery Materials at BASF, added that the company’s high-nickel cathode materials were key to delivering enhanced energy density and vehicle range to its customers.