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Ultium to build plant to recycle its battery scrap

A 120,000-square-foot facility to recycle lithium-ion battery manufacturing scrap and materials from the Ultium Cells electric-vehicle battery-cell plant is planned adjacent to the mega factory being built in Lordstown.

The facility would be the sixth and largest operated by Toronto, Canada-based Li-Cycle Holdings Corp., which in May announced a multi-year agreement to recycle the scrap material from the manufacturing process at Ultium Cells, a joint venture of General Motors and South Korea’s LG Energy Solution.

Ultium Cells will construct the plant that Li-Cycle will operate with its recycling technology that converts waste material into intermediate products, including lithium, cobalt and nickel. Li-Cycle will convert those materials into battery-grade materials at a facility in Rochester, New York, according to the company.

The plant, scheduled for operation in early 2023, is planned, said Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill, for property due west of the intersection of Hallock Young Road and Tod Avenue SW.

It will employ at least 35 workers and will have the capacity to process up to 15,000 metric tons of battery manufacturing scrap and other materials per year, according to Li-Cycle, which announced the facility Thursday. The tonnage is roughly equivalent to the batteries of 30,000 electric vehicles.

The company would not comment on a dollar investment.

Kunal Phalpher, Li-Cycle’s chief strategy officer, said the Lordstown plant will be the first co-located with another facility because of the volume of material that Ultium Cells will generate.

“The rest of our facilities are just independent, what we started to call now merchant spokes, taking material from a number of customers,” Phalpher said. “But when it comes to cell manufacturing, there is a significant amount of tonnage of waste really to optimize the cost around packaging and logistics, this one is co-located right on the property and it’s the first one we’ve done like this.”

“The volume of material that’s generated at a cell manufacturing place warrants the need, warrants the economics for putting it right there because that is going to be the primary feed into this plant,” he said. “We have the ability to take other customers’ material into this facility as well, but the primary focus will be to service the contract we previously announced with Ultium Cells.”

The Lordstown plant will operate 24 / 7 year-round, which is what Li-Cyle’s other facilities in Rochester and Kingston, Ontario, operate at now, Phalpher said.

Li-Cycle has other facilities under construction in Phoenix and Tuscaloosa, Ala. A hub in Rochester to convert the waste into the reusable material is also being built now and should be operational next year, Phalpher said.

Production at the 3.1 million-square-foot Ultium Cells plant is expected to begin in August. In December, a spokeswoman for Ultium said exterior construction of the facility was about 95 percent complete and about 15 percent of the machinery already was in place.

The rest of the equipment installation will be phased through 2023 for multiple assembly lines.

The $2.3 billion plant will employ upward of 1,000 workers at full capacity. The company had about 150 employees at the end of 2021 and anticipates to be at 600 by the end of 2022 and at more than 1,100 by end of 2023.

Said Kevin Kerr, Ultium Cells’ Ohio plant director, “Our collaboration with Li-Cycle is an instrumental step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes. This facility is another bold step forward in our sustainability journey here at Ultium Cells”.

Li-Cycle’s announcement was another bit of good news for the village, which has become ground zero in the Mahoning Valley for industrial and commercial development.

“Success brings success, and if we’re able to get something like this with 35 jobs, that could lead to something else, which could lead to something else, which could lead to something else … and we’ve been successful in Lordstown,” said Hill.

rselak@tribtoday.com

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