Glencore International AG, a leading producer, recycler, and marketer of nickel and cobalt for electric vehicle batteries, and Li-Cycle Holdings Corp., a prominent lithium-ion battery resource recovery company, have joined forces to explore the development of a groundbreaking battery recycling Hub facility in Portovesme, Italy. This Hub aims to become the largest source of recycled battery-grade lithium, nickel, and cobalt in Europe, constituting a significant step towards a circular economy for the continent’s battery and electric vehicle (EV) industry.
The proposed Portovesme Hub will be Europe’s first fully closed-loop solution, starting from lithium-ion battery material inputs and culminating in battery-grade products. It will leverage Li-Cycle’s cutting-edge hydrometallurgical technology, which has earned the company a reputation as the leading lithium-ion battery recycler in North America.
Situated in Sardinia, Italy, the Portovesme metallurgical complex boasts an established lead-zinc and hydrometallurgical facility that has been operational since 1929. Leveraging this existing infrastructure, the Portovesme Hub is projected to be the largest producer of sustainable battery-grade products on the European continent.
Commenting on this strategic collaboration, Kunal Sinha, Global Head of Recycling at Glencore, stated, “This project, combined with our existing footprint in primary supply and battery metals recycling, underpins our ambition to become the circularity partner of choice for the European battery and EV industry. Establishing a Hub through the re-purposing of our Portovesme site, which could become the first Glencore asset to produce battery-grade lithium, will enable us to truly close the loop for our European OEM and gigafactory customers across all aspects of the supply chain. It will shorten delivery times, reduce emissions by minimizing the distance of the freight routes, and support Italy and Europe’s ambitions to be a global leader in the circular economy.”
Li-Cycle’s Co-founder and Executive Chairman, Tim Johnston, expressed excitement about expanding their global strategic partnership with Glencore and the Portovesme Hub’s potential impact. He said, “The planned Portovesme Hub is a landmark project for Europe’s battery recycling industry and is expected to be the largest source of recycled battery-grade lithium on the Continent. We are excited to build on our learnings from the Rochester Hub in support of the rapid growth of the lithium-ion battery ecosystem in an environmentally friendly manner. Li-Cycle’s expansion in Europe aligns with our modular rollout strategy, as we replicate our successful North American model, which mirrors customer demand and commercial contracting with a strategically located pre-processing Spoke network and centralized post-processing Hub.”
The definitive feasibility study (DFS) for the Portovesme Hub will commence within 60 days of this announcement and is expected to conclude by mid-2024. Upon a positive DFS outcome, the project will proceed to construction, with commissioning scheduled for late 2026 to early 2027.
The Portovesme Hub, expected to have a processing capacity of up to 50,000 to 70,000 tonnes of black mass annually, equivalent to approximately 36 GWh of lithium-ion batteries, will receive black mass supplied from Li-Cycle’s growing Spoke network in Europe and through Glencore’s commercial network. This partnership represents a significant stride towards achieving a fully Europe-based solution for manufacturing scrap and end-of-life batteries, utilizing hydrometallurgical processes to promote sustainability in the battery supply chain.
Additionally, Glencore and Li-Cycle anticipate forming a 50/50 joint venture that will repurpose part of Glencore’s existing metallurgical complex in Portovesme to establish the Portovesme Hub. This collaborative approach is expected to streamline development with low capital intensity, leveraging the significant existing infrastructure, equipment, and experienced workforce at the Portovesme site. Furthermore, the project envisages competitive long-term financing from Glencore to fund Li-Cycle’s share of the capital investment.
The partnership between Glencore and Li-Cycle has garnered immense interest from industry stakeholders, with high expectations for the Hub to lead Europe’s battery recycling industry towards a more sustainable future.