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SK Innovation and SungEel HiTech form battery-recycling joint venture

| By Mary Bailey

SK Innovation Ltd. (Seoul, South Korea) and SungEel HiTech signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to establish a joint venture for battery metal recycling to take lead in the market. This follows the announcement last year that Kia Motors would be collaborating with SK Innovation to establish a recycling ecosystem for electric vehicle batteries.

On December 13, the two companies decided to collaborate in a business of recovering lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, and other cathode materials from used batteries, and signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to establish a joint venture at SK Seorin Building in Jongno-gu, Seoul. The signing ceremony was attended by Head of SK Innovation’s Portfolio Divisional Group Kang Dong-soo, CEO of SungEel HiTech Yi Kang-myung, and representatives from both companies.

The two companies plan to establish a domestic joint venture combining SK Innovation’s independently developed lithium hydroxide recovery technology and SungEel HiTech’s nickel, cobalt, and manganese recovery technology by 2023 and secure a differentiated competitive edge in the fast-growing market.

Since 2017, SK Innovation has been developing the technology to recover lithium from lithium-ion batteries in the form of lithium hydroxide. In December last year, the company built a scale-up pilot plant in SK Innovation Institute of Environmental Science & Technology located in Daejeon to test the feasibility of the technology’s commercialization. With this test as a foundation, the first commercial plant in Korea will be built in collaboration with SungEel HiTech, aimed to start operating by 2025.

The lithium hydroxide retrieved through SK Innovation’s technology is not only pure enough to be used in electric vehicle batteries but also known to have the highest recovery rates in the industry. Considering the current investment environment, SK Innovation will be building its first plant in Korea, and more plants will follow in the U.S. and Europe later.

 SungEel HiTech is a specialized enterprise for recycling used secondary cells that garnered a fervent attention from investors during the initial public offering (IPO) last July. It is the only company in Korea to recover cobalt, nickel, manganese, and copper from lithium-ion batteries through a large-scale hydrometallurgical plant. In cooperation with SK Innovation, SungEel HiTech expects to generate additional profits by recovering lithium, which recently saw the biggest price increase among battery metals.

 Recycling metals from used batteries is a crucial new business in implementing SK Innovation’s ‘Carbon to Green’ financial story and expanding its eco-friendly business portfolio,” said Kang Dong-soo, Head of SK Innovation’s Portfolio Divisional Group. “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: “In line with the fast-growing electric vehicle market, we are pushing to strengthen our global leadership in eco-friendly technologies, upgrade the battery recycling technology, and expand the scale of our material production significantly. We will strengthen our lithium technology and become a global top-tier recycling company.”