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A greener use for Northvolt battery waste

Partners with Cinis Fertilizer to upcycle battery byproduct salts Metal Tech News – October 20, 2021

Lithium battery manufacturer Northvolt has partnered up with an unlikely collaborator, Swedish startup Cinis Fertilizer, signing an offtake agreement for sodium sulfate salt to be recovered from battery manufacturing processes and repurposed for commercial use.

Aiming to produce the world's most environmentally friendly mineral fertilizer by recycling industrial waste products from the pulp and paper industry, as well as the battery manufacturing industry, Cinis intends to manufacture fertilizer with a 75% smaller carbon dioxide footprint than with traditional methods using a patented process to turn waste salts and ash into a high-value mineral fertilizer.

Among the latest innovative and green methods beginning circular processes, a new water treatment technology at Northvolt's Ett Gigafactory in Skellefteå, Sweden, will allow the company to produce up to 200,000 tons of sodium sulfate salt per year as a high-quality byproduct in the manufacturing of electrode active materials for its lithium-ion batteries.

"The recovery of this salt is a prime example of Northvolt's integration of process technologies to ensure the smallest environmental footprint possible from our manufacturing," said Emma Nehrenheim, chief environmental office at Northvolt. "The technology we have developed means that a valuable product which would otherwise be considered waste is instead repurposed for commercial markets."

And you can't get much greener than upgrading a potential lithium-ion battery waste material into a low-carbon fertilizer.

Over the next four years, Cinis will build two fertilizer factories, both powered by renewable electricity, in Northern Sweden – one in Örnsköldsvik and one in Skellefteå, next to the Northvolt Ett gigafactory.

"We share a common goal with Northvolt: creating value-adding products for a fossil-fuel-free future," said Cinis Fertilizer CEO Jakob Liedberg. "Through this partnership, we will produce fossil-free fertilizer with a close to zero-carbon footprint and make a unique contribution towards securing more sustainable agriculture."

With focus on automotive and transportation industries, it can be easily overlooked that the food system as a whole – including refrigeration, food processing, packaging, and transport – accounts for around one-quarter greenhouse gas emissions, with agriculture making up nearly 15% from land use.

"This is just one example of the positive outcomes that can be achieved from making investments into circular manufacturing. In this instance the material in play is salt, but in other areas of the Northvolt production process, our engineers are engaged in developing solutions to ensure that water, heat, energy, and other materials that would otherwise be wasted are instead recovered and recirculated to one purpose or another," added Nehrenheim.

In order to minimize its carbon footprint from the manufacturing process, Northvolt Ett will be powered entirely by clean energy. Northvolt has also developed an effective recycling solution based on hydrometallurgical technology to recover raw materials from end-of-life batteries and redirect them back into manufacturing.

Northvolt intends to leverage smart process engineering and technology across the entire factory in order to optimize the complete water, energy, and material profile of the production process, and waste salt is just the beginning of its clean energy revolution.


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