Major battery investments in Korea

10. August 2021

Major battery investments in Korea

During the past few weeks, three major South Korean firms have announced investments into battery materials of all kinds. SK Materials is to build a lithium-silicon materials facility; Posco Chemical will build a cathode materials plant; and LG Chem has larger plans still, focused mainly on anode materials.

SK Materials, a subsidiary of SK Group, has formed a joint venture with American silicon-carbon composite materials maker Group14 Technologies to build its $52 million factory for lithium-silicon battery materials in South Korea. This should open in 2022.

This all follows the establishment of Group14’s Battery Active Materials factory in Washington State earlier this year, with SK Materials leading the financing round needed. SK claims that its SCC55 technology, “delivers dramatically more energy density per volume to meet the increasing global demand for high-performing lithium-ion-based storage”.

Posco Chemical, a maker of secondary battery materials, will build a 60,000 tonnes/year plant site at the Yeongilman General Industrial Complex in Pohang, North Gyeongsang province, at a cost of around €4.3 million. This will supply cathode active materials for electric vehicle (EV) batteries.

Once this is built, Posco Chemical said that it will have 160,000 tonnes/year of capacity at its three sites in Korea – enough, it claimed, to supply 1.8 million EVs with 60kwh battery packs. The company plans to build a further 110,000 tonnes of capacity in the US, Europe and China by 2025.

Posco Chemical has been working with its parent company, Posco, to develop resources such as lithium, nickel, and graphite materials, make preemptive investments to expand its mass production capabilities, and R&D into next-generation materials such as nickel, cobalt, manganese and aluminium.

Finally, LG Chem plans to spend about €78 million on shifting its whole portfolio for sustainable growth, with battery materials at the heart of this. CEO Hak Cheol Shin described this as “the most revolutionary change since the establishment of the company”. Tangible results from this are expected from 2H 2021.

In all, 60% of the total investment will be spent in the Advanced Materials business to make LG Chem “the world’s no. 1 comprehensive battery material company” and broaden the company portfolio. The remainder is being invested in biobased polymers (30%) and pharmaceuticals (10%).

A 60,000 tonnes/year anode materials plant at Gumi will begin in December. This is part of plans to grow the company’s total capacity from 40,000 tonnes in 2020 to 260,000 by 2026. A joint venture is being prepared with a mining company for metal supply and LG Chem will look for other cooperation in mining, smelting and refining technologies.

In addition, LG Chem is reviewing M&A and JVs to build a global production base, differentiate its technologies and acquire market leadership in related fields. These include binders, radiant adhesives and carbon nanotubes. Capacity for these, currently 1,700 tonnes/year will triple by 2025, the company said.

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