BASF, Norilsk in battery materials partnership

BASF and Nornickel have established a strategic partnership centered around battery materials for electric vehicles, including a feedstock supply deal and co-located facilities, the companies said.

The European chemical company has selected Harjavalta, Finland, as the first location for battery materials production that will serve the European automotive market. The plant will be constructed adjacent to the nickel and cobalt refinery owned by Norilsk Nickel.

This investment is part of BASF’s €400-million, multi-step investment plan announced last year and builds upon initial battery materials production that started in Harjavalta in 2018.

The start-up is planned for late 2020, enabling the supply of roughly 300,000 full electric vehicles per year with BASF battery materials. The new plant in Harjavalta will use locally generated renewable energy sources, including hydro, wind and biomass.

BASF and the Russian mining company have also signed a long-term, market-based supply agreement for nickel and cobalt feedstocks from Norilsk Nickel’s metal refinery. The agreement will establish a locally sourced and secure supply of raw materials for battery production in Europe.

The investment in the new plant in Finland reinforces BASF’s support of the EU Commission’s move toward a European battery-production value chain. BASF is also evaluating additional locations in Europe for the construction of new production plants for battery raw materials.

“The co-location of BASF’s new plant and Norilsk Nickel’s metal refinery in Harjavalta will enable unparalleled access to a local nickel and cobalt supply,” said Jeffrey Lou, senior vice president, battery materials at BASF.

“Our high-nickel cathode materials are key to deliver enhanced energy density and vehicle range to our customers. With this world-scale production facility, BASF will be able to serve the European e-mobility growth strategies of key original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and cell suppliers with reliable supply and close collaboration,” Lou added.

Norilsk Nickel has had a partnership with BASF in other areas for some time but views the current agreement as a key part of its strategic plan to expand its presence in the global battery materials market and establish long-term cooperation with leading producers of cathode active materials.

“We believe that electric vehicles have significant potential to transform the global nickel industry, and Norilsk Nickel – as the world’s leading supplier of refined nickel products – is uniquely positioned to support this transformation,” said Sergey Batekhin, senior vice president of sales, procurement and innovation at Norilsk Nickel.

Nickel demand from lithium-ion battery producers is set to rise rapidly from the current 100,000 tonnes to 500,000 tonnes by 2025, while the market shifts toward more nickel-weighted batteries, such as the NCM 811 – a cathode composition of 80% nickel, 10% cobalt and 10% manganese, according to Fastmarkets MB head of base metals and battery research William Adams.

The International Nickel Study Group expects the refined nickel market to be in a 117,000-tonne deficit in 2018 due to rising demand growth from the stainless steel sector and nickel-containing batteries.

Fastmarkets MB is planning to launch a cif Shanghai duty-free nickel briquette premium to complement the successful launch of its yuan-denominated nickel sulfate price assessment in July.