Batteries: POSCO begins aggressive lithium-ion battery anode materials expansion

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POSCO Group has begun to increase production of lithium-ion battery anodes from 24ktpy to 74ktpy, it was reported in November. New Chairman and CEO Choi Jeong-woo took office in July this year and has pledged to enhance the South Korean company’s anode business, becoming a major player in the sector. Lithium-ion battery anode manufacture is currently led by China’s Shenzhen BTR New Energy Materials and Japan’s Hitachi, which account for around 70% and 20% of global production respectively. POSCO aims to eventually increase its share to 20% and achieve ₩17 trillion (US$15Bn) in sales by 2030. It plans to integrate the Group’s anode and cathode materials divisions and establish a general secondary battery material research center.

Choi Jeong-woo was previously in charge of POSCO Chemtech, the Group’s coal chemistry and carbon material subsidiary. The subsidiary opened its first anode materials plant in November and has begun construction of a second plant; both plants are located in Sejong City. The existing plant has already undergone six phases of expansion since 2011 to reach the current 24ktpy production level. Phase one of the new plant will include four production lines producing 20ktpy by H2 2019 but this could be increased to 10 production lines outputting 50ktpy by 2021. Once compete, the two plants could, together, produce anode enough for use in around 2.7M 30kW electric vehicle (EV) batteries.

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POSCO has proven to be one of the most active companies in the lithium-ion battery materials sector since 2010. Besides investment in anode materials, POSCO has been building considerable capacity in nickel-rich cathode materials for the EV industry. POSCO is expected to build a second cathode facility in South Korea by 2019. The plant will produce 6ktpy of cathode with an eventual 50ktpy capacity by 2022. To implement this ambitious strategy, the company has so far secured lithium supplies from Pilbara Minerals and cobalt supplies through two joint ventures with Chinese Huayou Cobalt.