On February 7, POSCO held a ceremony to celebrate the completion of its lithium extraction plant (PosLX). The PosLX Plant is expected to produce 2,500 tons of lithium carbonate per year – enough to manufacture about 70 million laptop batteries. This output will supply POSCO’s battery making partners LG Chem and Samsung SDI, as well as POSCO ESM, a subsidiary that produces cathodes for secondary batteries.
“Our vision is what propelled us to keep going in spite of many difficulties and limitations,” POSCO CEO Ohjoon Kwon said. “We plan to continue differentiating ourselves in the energy material business with lithium, high purity nickel, and positive electrode materials.”
Jong-joo Kim, a director at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said, “Today’s completion of the plant gives POSCO the ability to provide lithium carbonate for its partners in the battery manufacturing industry. ”
POSCO is currently obtaining its lithium phosphate, a raw material of lithium carbonate, by extracting it from wasted rechargeable batteries. In the future, POSCO will use its proprietary lithium extraction technology to produce its own lithium phosphate. POSCO has been developing this eco-friendly technology for 7 years. It extracts lithium phosphate from saline water and converts it into lithium carbonate. Unlike the conventional method that takes 12 to 18 months on average, POSCO’s highly efficient method takes as little as 8 hours or up to one month. This method offers a purity rate of 99.9% while also increasing the lithium recovery rate to over 80%.
Due to the continuous expansion of the mobile industry, the demand for lithium-ion secondary batteries has increased exponentially. In 2015, worldwide demand for lithium carbonate for batteries swelled from 6,000 tons (in 2002) to 66,000 tons. And as the presence of electric vehicles and energy storage systems (ESS) continues to expand, the demand for lithium carbonate is expected to balloon over 180,000 tons by 2025. To address these changing needs, POSCO plans to strengthen its position as a global lithium production base by building plants that have an annual production capacities of 40,000 tons of lithium – both at home and abroad – starting with the PosLX Plant at Gwangyang Works.