Electric processes are key when the battery industry aims to become carbon neutral
The lithium-ion battery industry’s climate footprint has come under scrutiny as world demand for fossil-free batteries soars. As legislators and customers alike demand a clean production chain, a good start is to replace fossil fuels in the production process with electricity wherever possible.
Across most industries, sustainable value chains and circular business models are increasingly essential for long-term survival. Pressure is building from various stakeholders, including legislators, organizations, customers and investors.
Companies are increasingly aligning with the United Nations’ Decade of Action and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals to halt and reverse climate change in line with the Paris Agreement.
“We’ve seen a shift in focus among our customers,” says Kanthal President Anders Björklund. “We’ve been supplying electric heating solutions to various industries for 90-plus years, and while productivity and cost are still key considerations, minimizing your carbon footprint has become increasingly important.”
Battery industry under scrutiny
As we approach 2050, when the European Commission’s Green Deal aims to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, rechargeable batteries play a crucial role in replacing fossil-based energy sources. The use of lithium-ion batteries, for example, is predicted to skyrocket in the automotive industry, driven by demand for carbon-emission-free electric vehicles.
While this shift promotes the greater environmental good, the lithium-ion battery industry has come under closer scrutiny. The European Commission is turning up the heat with its 2020 Sustainable Batteries Regulation, which focuses on the entire battery value chain, from mining and processing through the usage stage to end-of-life solutions.
Smart choice to electrify heating processes
For battery manufacturers who want to offer fossil-free “green” batteries, all manufacturing steps must be made climate-neutral, including heating processes in extraction of lithium from spodumene. The acid roasting of β-spodumene, for example, commonly involves gas-fired kilns, although an electric heating solution could improve the process.
Indeed, using electricity to make processes eco-smarter is a trend that spans many industries. As a rule, it will help manufacturers comply with ever-stricter regulations and reach emission-reduction goals. Provided you use fossil-free energy, changing to electric process equipment means emitting no nitrogen oxide (NOx) or carbon dioxide (CO2).
Electric heating also makes factory operation more cost-effective while increasing production efficiency.
Compared with gas-heated furnaces, you can practically double the efficiency when you change to electrically heated equipment
“Compared with gas-heated furnaces, you can practically double the efficiency when you change to electrically heated equipment,” Björklund says. “This translates into long-term environmental gains and operational gains, since gas-based solutions are generally significantly more personnel-intensive. For example, you usually need operators out on the shop floor adjusting equipment. With an electric solution, you can precisely manage that from the control room, which lets you save on personnel costs.
“Over the years, we’ve seen new reasons to electrify and we’ve constantly developed our technology and solutions to fit new types of heating processes,” Björklund continues. “In our experience, electrification tends to first happen downstream in industries’ value chains, and then work backwards.”
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