SungEel Hitech Co. Ltd. of South Korea has grown into one of the world's leading secondary battery recycling companies since its founding in March 2000 with the philosophy of “finite resources as infinite resources to preserve the green environment.” The plant of its Hungarian subsidiary was inaugurated in March 2019 in Szigetszentmiklós, just south of Budapest.
As part of SungEel Hitech’s first European investment, the 8,200-sqm plant, built with an investment of EUR 5 million, employs 50 people. SungEel Hitech Hungary Ltd., founded in 2017, processes waste products of battery manufacturing in an environmentally friendly way, with world-class technology.
Precious materials from battery scraps
Facing a global shortage of mined metals, SungEel engages in ‘urban mining’ to recover cobalt, nickel, manganese, lithium, copper and other scarce metals from scrap batteries and metal scraps. SungEel Hitech Hungary takes part in this process by receiving and handling materials – including anode/cathode (electrode/coil), cell, module – from Li-ion battery (LIB) production. This waste management/recovery activity is supplemented by the on-site collection and trade of 240 tons of packaging materials (paper, plastic, wood (pallets) per year.
As the management of the Szigetszentmiklós plant explains to Diplomacy&Trade, the side products of lithium-ion battery production received from the Samsung SDI battery factory in Göd, north of Budapest, are anode (copper foil with carbon coating), cathode (aluminum foil with nickel-manganic-cobalt coating) and the jelly roll, which includes these two separated with membrane.
In addition to cobalt and nickel, the decomposition process by SungEel Hitech Hungary produces aluminum and copper chips as well as nickel, manganic and cobalt powder, etc., which can be utilized by metal traders. The incoming material is recycled 95-98%, in some cases 100%.
Back to the batteries
The nickel and cobalt gained by SungEel Hitech Hungary from the incoming waste of battery production is exported to the mother company in Korea where these are further processed in a chemical plant that produces basic materials for battery factories. Long-term plans include the setting-up of such a chemical plant in Hungary, too, to save these materials (Nickel Manganese and Cobalt) from having to be shipped to the other end of the world and then perhaps back to the battery factory in this region. The whole procedure taking place at the Szigetszentmiklós plant is very beneficial for the environment not just because it allows for less mining but also because the scrap materials are utilized instead of just being dumped in a depot. Of course, the environment is also taken into consideration during the extraction process. The technology used here has already been tested in Korea and is further developed continuously and the environmental regulations are adhered to.
The dust produced during the granulation process is removed by extraction equipment into a storage tank located outside the building. The air at the plant is continuously monitored and the results are reported to the environmental authorities. The rate of emission at the chimneys is zero. The scrap recycling capacity of the Szigetszentmiklós plant is 7,000 tons per year, which means the ‘urban mining’ of approximately 2,000 tons of cobalt and nickel.
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