SK Innovation to get involved in battery recycling

SK Innovation and the recycling specialist SungEel HiTech want to launch a battery recycling joint venture in Korea. Both sides have just signed a letter of intent. The joint venture is to be founded next year.

The joint venture is to combine SK Innovation’s independently developed lithium hydroxide recovery technology and SungEel HiTech’s nickel, cobalt and manganese recovery technology and “secure a differentiated competitive advantage in the fast-growing market”, according to SK Innovation.

The Korean battery manufacturer has been in the process of developing lithium recovery technology since 2017. In December 2021, SK Innovation set up a scale-up pilot plant at the group’s Institute of Environmental Science & Technology in Daejeon to test the feasibility of commercialising this technology. Based on this test, SK Innovation now plans to work with SungEel HiTech to “build the first commercial plant in Korea, which is expected to be operational by 2025”. Further plants are to follow later in the USA and Europe.

SungEel HiTech is a company specialising in recycling that made its stock market debut this summer, according to the company’s statement. It is the only company in Korea that recovers cobalt, nickel, manganese and copper from lithium-ion batteries in a large-scale hydrometallurgical plant, it says. In collaboration with SK Innovation, SungEel HiTech expects additional profits from the recovery of lithium, which has recently seen the largest price increase among battery metals, it said.

“Recycling metals from end-of-life batteries is a crucial new business in implementing SK Innovation’s ‘Carbon to Green’ financial story and expanding its eco-friendly business portfolio,” expressed Kang Dong-soo, Head of Portfolio Divisional Group at SK Innovation. “In cooperation with SungEel HiTech, we will build a circular economic model at a fast pace by recycling battery raw materials. Meanwhile, we will also respond flexibly to global regulations based on our differentiated competitive edge in recycling technologies.”

Yi Kang-myung, CEO of SungEel HiTech, announced plans to strengthen his company’s global leadership in environmentally friendly technologies in light of the rapidly growing electric vehicle market. The goal is to “become a world-leading recycling company”.