A few words about how we at Circular Energy Storage experienced the market in 2021 and what we will look for in 2022.
When battery recyclers buy scrap lithium-ion batteries, or black mass, the not so specific intermediary powder from crushed cells, the prices are usually set as a percentage of the price at London Metal Exchange (LME) of the cobalt and nickel contained in the material. Usually that percentage, or discount, is around 50% to 80%, often after a fixed process fee is applied. However, in China the discount is currently hovering around 110%. That means that recyclers are paying more for the batteries than what they theoretically can get paid for the material inside them.
Or does it really mean that?
In the batteries there is also around 2% of lithium. Obviously the most vital substance in the batteries but also notoriously known for being unprofitable to recover from scrap. But that essentially depends on its value. Since the beginning of 2021 the price of lithium carbonate, the chemical required to make many of the various lithium-ion cathode types, has increased with almost 900%. In all cell chemistries but LCO, lithium is currently the most valuable element. In fact, an LFP cell, known to be the least valuable battery chemistry for a recycler, has today a recoverable value which is higher than any nickel-based cell at the beginning of last year.
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