LIFE LIBAT PROJECT RESULTS!

Date: 
19/11/2021

LIFE LIBAT PROJECT RESULTS

In this section the main technical and environmental results obtained by the LIFE LiBat Project Recycling of primary LIthium BATtery by mechanical and hydrometallurgical operations (LIFE 16 ENV/IT/000389), which ended in June 2021, are reported.

It is possible to download a PDF document attached at the bottom of thepage.

 

 

TECHNICAL RESULTS

TARGET: demonstrating in pilot scale a process for the treatment of end-of-life lithium primary batteries Li(0)-MnO2, using an innovative cryomechanical and hydrometallurgical treatment.

 

THE LIBAT PROCESS

An innovative process for the treatment of primary lithium batteries, based only on mechanical and hydrometallurgical treatments, was successfully demonstrated on a pilot scale. Compared to alternative pyrometallurgical recycling technologies, the LiBat process allows the recovering of lithium and manganese products.

Specifically, the various stages of the validated process consist of:

• Sorting of coin cell and cylindrical Li(0)/MnO2 batteries;

• Battery stabilization with a cryogenic pretreatment;

• Grinding, screening and separation of the three fractions: fine electrodic powder, magnetic fraction (steel), non-magnetic fraction (paper/plastic);

• Neutralization: reaction of the lithium metal and production of a lithium-rich solution;

• Electrodic powder leaching and manganese recovery;

• Chemical treatment of the neutralization solution and lithium recovery;

 

DEMONSTRATION CAMPAIGN

Results: Expected results were fully achieved validating the LIBAT technology on a prototype scale. 8900 kg of batteries were treated, leading to a recovery of 2450 kg of steel, 2800 kg of fine electrode powder and 1400 kg of non-magnetic fraction. 212 kg of lithium carbonate were produced. The treatment of 1045 kg of powder made it possible to recover 660 kg of manganese hydroxide.

The overall recycling yield of the process is 65% in agreement with the target.

Purity and recycling yields of the products: a Li recycling rate of 68% was achieved with 99,8% purity as Li2CO3. A Mn recycling rate of 94% was achieved with 98% purity as Mn(OH)2 . Steel is a directly marketable product.

 

TRANSFERABILITY ACTIVITY: Li-Ion batteries recycling

Results: Transferability activities denoted that the cryo-mechanical treatment of LIBAT technology is suitable also for the treatment of Li-ion batteries, the dominant type used for electric vehicles and industrial batteries for stationary energy storage. Hydrometallurgical section can be easily adapted to treat Li-Ion. Considering the market share of Li primary and Li-ion batteries and the amount of collected batteries in EU (about 2,000 ton of Li(0) and 20-30,000 ton of Li-Ion) the possibility of treating Li-ion in the same plant can greatly improve economic feasibility of the process.

The mechanical section of the LiBat plant can be used without substantial modifications to produce electrodic powder from Li-ion batteries containing lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese and graphite. Steel and non-magnetic materials can be separated in a similar way to what was done by the current prototype

The electrodic powder undergoes a leaching and purification treatment. The graphite is recovered separately and tested in the laboratory, has characteristics comparable to a commercial product. The mix of hydroxides can be used to produce NMC cathode material suitable to produce new Li-Ion batteries. Lithium carbonate is also recovered.

 

REPLICABILITY ACTIVITY: a hypothesis of a full-scale plant in Romania

The analysis of the waste management practices implemented at EU level evidence the presence of few pyrometallurgical facilities located in the center of Europe (mainly France, Belgium, Germany and Austria) that can process primary lithium batteries. This implies that primary batteries collected in many EU member states, including Italy and EU eastern countries, must be shipped abroad. Transportation and related risks involves high related costs.

Such common practice allows marketing opportunities for the implementation of the LiBat technology.

Results: The European situation on the recycling of primary lithium batteries was analyzed. Current recycling methods, collection rates and batteries placed on the market in the different countries were studied.

Romania and Greece were selected as ideal targets for the construction of an industrial scale plant based on LiBat technology, that can treat Li(0) and Li-Ion batteries.

A plant in Romania that could handle both Li(0)/MnO2 and LIBs from the Balkan area would allow to treat about 117 ton/y of Li(0)/MnO2 and 985 ton/y of LIBs.

The scale of this plant, integrated also with LIBs, is in line with the results of the economic analysis carried out during the project.

 

POLICY IMPLICATIONS: current legislation and future improvements

The LiBat process contributed and will continue to contribute to the implementation of the following EU directives:

• Directive 2006/66/EC on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators (Battery Directive)

• Directive 2008/1/EC: Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (IPPC)

• Directive 2012/27/EU: Energy Efficiency

Results: Potential barriers to batteries recycling by limitations of the EU legislation, such as the Battery Directive were highlighted and possible solutions are proposed, also regarding the future “Battery Regulation”.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL RESULTS

TARGET: to characterize the environmental advantages derived by recovering materials with the LIFE LIBAT process in place of implementing a pyrometallurgical process. The latter which represents the consolidated technology adopted for the recycle of primary lithium batteries at EU level.

 

POLLUTANT ANALYSIS

Results: All analyzed pollutant concentrations in the gas emissions after gas treatment (powders, volatile organics, metals, acid vapours and SOx) are lower than legal limits established in Decreto Regione Lombardia n° 8851 of 22/07/2020 denoting the adequacy of the developed system to retain pollutants.

 

AIR EMISSIONS MONITORING

Results: As expected results of LIBAT process there were the reduction in SOx emissions (-90%) and dust (-90%) with respect to pyro-metallurgical treatment taking reference values from literature.

In order to determine the g of SOx/ton batteries associated with the LIBAT process, the results from in situ chemical analyses were used obtaining the release of 45 gSOx/ton of batteries. This value is lower than that associated with the pyro-metallurgical process reported in the proposal, equal to 48 g of SOx per ton of batteries (reduction of 6%). It should be specified that the value reported for the pyrometallurgical was the result of a bibliographic search, but specific for the treatment of lithium-ion batteries. . For this reason, this value could be underestimated compared to that deriving from the pyro-metallurgical treatment of primary lithium batteries in which S-containing batteries can be erroneously included for incorrect manual sorting during LIBAT demonstration.

In agreement with this hypothesis, carrying out the analysis of SOx in the aspiration section before the abatement system, a large variability of data was observed (0,15 - 132,1 mg/Nm3).  This evaluation was also confirmed by the results achieved with the study of the Life Cycle Assessment carried out, in fact it was determined a reduction of 33% in emissions in terms of kg SOxeq. using the LIBAT process.

A similar elaboration was done to determine the g of dust/ton batteries for the LIBAT process. The determined value from in situ analyses is 4.3 g/ton lower than that associated with the pyrometallurgical process reported in the project, equal to 208 g of dust per ton of batteries (reduction of 98%). This evaluation was also confirmed by the results achieved with the study of the LCA carried out, using the innovative LIBAT process there is a 45% reduction in emissions in terms of PM 2.5 eq.

 

LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT

Results: in order to have a comparison on all impact categories, an  environmental performance index was evaluated for landfilling, LIBAT process and pyrometallurgical process normalizing and weighting the different impact categories. This index shows that landfilling has a load of 0.7, pyrometallurgical process of 2.9 (mainly due to energy consumption) and LIFE-LIBAT a credit of -2.5 towards the environment confirming the benefit of the proposed process and the fact that using a pyrometallurgical approach the high impact due to the energy consumption cannot be balanced by the environmental credit of recovered fractions.

 

A similar elaboration was done to determine the g of dust/ton batteries for the LIBAT process. The determined value from in situ analyses is 4.3 g/ton lower than that associated with the pyrometallurgical process reported in the project, equal to 208 g of dust per ton of batteries (reduction of 98%). This evaluation was also confirmed by the results achieved with the study of the LCA carried out, using the innovative LIBAT process there is a 45% reduction in emissions in terms of PM 2.5 eq.

 

REDUCTION OF ENERGY CONSUMPTION

Results: by using for the treatment of primary lithium batteries, the innovative process developed in the project instead of a pyrometallurgical process, it is possible to obtain an energy saving equal to 87%. The net saving is associated with the fact that with the LiBat process thermal processes are avoided which are energy-intensive.

 

REDUCTION OF GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSION

Results: from the LCA analysis carried out it emerged that the total kg of CO2 equivalent produced with the LIBAT process for one ton of batteries treated is equal to 722. For the pyrometallurgical process was initially estimated a value of 1700 kg of CO2 equivalent, corresponded to a bibliographic value, but for this process a value equal to 8431 kg of CO2 equivalent was determined.

 

LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT

Results: in order to have a comparison on all impact categories, an  environmental performance index was evaluated for landfilling, LIBAT process and pyrometallurgical process normalizing and weighting the different impact categories. This index shows that landfilling has a load of 0.7, pyrometallurgical process of 2.9 (mainly due to energy consumption) and LIFE-LIBAT a credit of -2.5 towards the environment confirming the benefit of the proposed process and the fact that using a pyrometallurgical approach the high impact due to the energy consumption cannot be balanced by the environmental credit of recovered fractions.