Korea Zinc’s Onsan complex being transformed into a secondary battery base
On the 4th, Ulju-gun, Ulsan, Korea Zinc Onsan Refinery Plant 1. Entering the zinc electrolysis process, the cathode plate tightly packed in the electrolytic cell (a device that performs electrolysis) caught my eye. After electrolysis, zinc adhered to the negative plate. The zinc removed from the negative plate was transferred to the casting process.
When zinc melted in a melting furnace at 500℃ is poured into a heated mold and hardened, zinc ingots are made. It was similar to the process of making Taiyaki. The Korea Zinc Onsan smelter produces more than 1 million tons of non-ferrous metals annually, including zinc, lead, copper, gold, and silver. the world’s largest
On the other side of the road from the Onsan Refinery, frame work was in full swing. A crane carried the stretching material. It was a construction site for the precursor factory of Korea Electric Power Corporation. KEMCO , a subsidiary of Korea Zinc, and LG Chem established Korea Precursor, a joint venture last year. Precursor is a compound made by mixing nickel, cobalt, manganese, etc., and is used to make cathode material, a key material for secondary batteries.
Korea Precursor plans to spend 220 billion won to build a factory and produce up to 20,000 tons of precursors per year. 20,000 tons of precursors are equivalent to about 300,000 electric vehicles. The current construction progress is at 40%, and the goal is to complete it within this year and test drive it from January 2024.
Korea Zinc is accelerating its business expansion centered on secondary battery materials. The Onsan Refinery is the stage. Korea Zinc continues to invest trillions around the Onsan smelter, and is equipped with facilities to produce nickel sulfate, precursors, and copper foil used for cathode and anode materials for secondary batteries. In line with the overseas local production of secondary battery companies, overseas business sites are also being reviewed.
Opposite the 3rd factory of Korea Zinc Onsan Refinery, KZAM is located. K-Jam, a 100% subsidiary of Korea Zinc, makes copper foil, a negative material for secondary batteries. K-Jam spent 150 billion won to build a copper foil factory with an annual capacity of 13,000 tons. That’s enough to make about 300,000 electric cars. We are currently receiving quality certification from our customers. The goal is to complete the certification process and begin mass production in October.
Although it is still before full-fledged commercial production, K-Jam started the first expansion construction by spending about 250 billion won from last month. The ground leveling work on the site right next to the K-Jam factory had been completed. When the first expansion is completed in 2025, K-Jam’s production capacity will increase to 30,000 tons per year. K-Jam is also considering additional investment. We are weighing the plan to immediately continue the second expansion with an annual capacity of 30,000 tons next to the first expansion site and the plan to establish a new overseas business site.
Heo Gyun, CEO of K-Jam, said, “Our goal is to expand our production capacity to 100,000 tons per year for economies of scale.” He said, “We are reviewing the Americas, Malaysia, and Indonesia for overseas business sites,” and “First of all , we are trying to establish a short list of candidate sites for overseas business sites by the end of this month .”
The characteristic of K-Jam is that copper foil is made without using copper concentrate (ore from which impurities are first removed). Instead, copper produced from the smelting of zinc or lead at the Korea Zinc Onsan smelter and copper recycled from waste printed circuit boards ( PCBs ) are used. Zinc and lead concentrates contain 1-2% copper. Currently, the Onsan smelter can produce up to 30,000 tons of copper per year, but it is increasing its production capacity to 40,000 tons per year in line with the expansion of K-Jam.
Korea Precursor is also building a recycling plant along with the precursor plant. The recycling plant plans to process 6,000 tons of waste batteries annually and use them as precursor raw materials. It is also expected to secure additional raw materials such as lithium. CEO Heo Gyun, who also serves as an inside director of Korea Precursor, said, “We are trying to procure about 20% of precursor raw materials by recycling (recycling).” “Recycling is essential to have price competitiveness with Chinese precursors.”
The Chemco plant, about 300 meters away from the Korea Zinc Onsan smelter, was producing nickel sulfate that day. Chemco can produce up to 100,000 tons of nickel sulfate, a precursor raw material, annually. Compared to the production capacity, the size of the factory (approximately 6600㎡) did not seem large. The number of employees is only about 60.
The secret was speed. At the Chemco plant, there were five tall barrel-shaped reactors. In each of the four reactors, a melting operation is performed to melt the raw materials. It takes about 22 hours. In the first reactor, a purification operation to filter out impurities is carried out for 1 hour. Other nickel sulfate plants are processes that take nearly twice as long. Chemco used nickel powder with a nickel purity of 99% or more and an average particle size of less than 100㎛ (micrometer 0.001 mm) , and increased the sulfuric acid concentration to shorten the operation time.
The purified nickel sulfate solution once again filters out the residue before entering the evaporator to blow away moisture. A supersaturated state is then created in the crystallizer to produce nickel sulfate crystals like sand grains. After dehydration and drying, packaging is completed, and preparation for shipment is complete. “We export most of the nickel sulfate produced to Japanese precursor companies,” said Lee Tae-kyung, head of Chemco’s plant메이저사이트.
Korea Zinc is also reviewing a plan to build a nickel smelter near the Onsan smelter. It is a so-called ‘custom (customized) nickel smelter’. Korea Zinc manufactures from nickel concentrate to nickel mat through the dry/wet fusion process ( Pyro-hydro process ).Matte · Nickel content 70~75%), MHP (nickel hydroxide precipitate) of oxidized ore, etc. It is planned to be equipped with facilities that can treat and process all nickel-containing raw materials. When the nickel smelter becomes a reality, Korea Zinc’s investment in secondary battery materials near the Onsan smelter is expected to exceed 2 trillion won.
Opened in 1974, Korea Zinc is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary. For the next 50 years, Korea Zinc is continuing its ‘Troika Drive’ strategy to nurture new businesses under the leadership of Korea Zinc Chairman Yoon- Beom Choi . The main focus is to develop secondary battery materials, renewable energy, hydrogen, and resource circulation businesses.
The smelting technology that has been advanced over a long period of time has become the basis for the secondary battery material business. The electrolysis technology accumulated in the zinc electrolysis process was applied to K-Jam’s copper foil production process, and the impurity removal technology during the smelting process was applied to Chemco’s nickel sulfate process.
Business expansion also touches on the issue of survival. Lead-acid battery manufacturers are the largest consumers of lead produced by Korea Zinc Onsan Refinery. Lead-acid batteries are mainly used in internal combustion locomotives. The faster the transition to electric vehicles, which use a lot of lithium-ion batteries, the narrower the space for lead-acid batteries, and it is highly likely that lead-acid batteries will decrease as well.
Through the recently published ‘2022 Sustainability Report’, Chairman Choi Yoon-beom said, “We will not stop the journey of making all mankind healthy and happy by establishing an eco-friendly production base that produces core minerals with cleaner energy and utilizes waste.” We will smelt and create a new value for tomorrow.”