The Norwegian company Elkem has selected the Herøya Industrial Park as the site for a potential large-scale plant for battery material production. The Northern Recharge project aims to supply graphite as anode material in lithium-ion battery cells for electric cars.
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Elkem is currently constructing a pilot plant for battery graphite in the Norwegian town of Kristiansand. The pilot, which represents an investment of NOK 65 million (over EUR 6m) is expected to open at the beginning of 2021.
Depending on the outcome of the pilot, Elkem will evaluate whether to follow through with its Northern Recharge project. If so, Herøya Industrial Park, one of the biggest industrial parks in Norway, will host the envisioned large-scale plant.
It would then supply the rapidly growing EV battery industry with graphite. Elkem considers graphite the leading anode material in lithium-ion battery cells and expects demand to increase more than ten times from today’s level to 2030. To make it into the market, the company hopes to find a more competitive and environmentally-friendly production process. Elkem here banks on good access to hydropower at the Herøya site, potentially lowering CO2 emissions by 90 per cent compared to alternatives based on fossil energy. “We also secure proximity to our pilot plant and internationally leading research environments within material technology,” says vice president for Elkem Battery Materials, Stian Madshus.
A final investment decision by Elkem to build the plant is expected to be made next year. For a go-ahead, Elkem also hopes for public support. The company presented the Northern Recharge project in Oslo today at the launch of the report ‘Green electrical value chains as an export opportunity’ chaired by Arvid Moss, president of The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO). “For Norway to realise our potential, we need to see public-private partnerships, public support mechanisms and supportive policies developing with sufficient speed and scale, enabling us to win in this global competition,” said Moss.
Update 12 October 2020: It appears that Elkem has found a first supporter that sees the potential. Enova has made NOK 10 million (about 917,900 euros) available for the initial planning of the Northern Recharge plant. Enova is owned by the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment.
Elkem’s CEO, Michael Koenig said, “Securing this initial support from Enova is an important step as we progress towards a final investment decision.”
The company will now continue to progress the Northern Recharge project towards a final investment decision in 2021.
The work on the pilot plant in Kristiansand is also moving ahead. Innovation Norway supports this project.
Elkem also continues to research silicon-graphite composite materials as described above. This year, the company is joining the Hydra and 3beLiEVe research projects on next-generation lithium-ion batteries, coordinated by SINTEF and the Austrian Institute of Technology, respectively. Both projects have received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
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