UP Catalyst, an Estonia-based company developing a method to produce sustainable carbon nanomaterials and graphite from CO2 (earlier post), says that it can produce carbon-negative graphite, consuming 3.7 tons of CO2 per ton of graphite material produced.
Conventional production of graphite not only takes place far away from battery manufacturing centers but also poses environmental challenges. Whether it is natural or fossil fuel-derived synthetic graphite, the estimated carbon footprint it accounts for is 5.3 kg CO2eq/kg and 13.8 kg CO2eq/kg respectively, according to UP Catalyst.
The surge in graphite demand has put pressure on Europe, which imports almost 98% of the graphite it uses. The valuable mineral for electric vehicle (EV) batteries is now considered a critical raw material.
China is the leading graphite producer, dominating the entire supply chain for lithium-ion batteries. Considering that the number of EVs is estimated to increase to 145 million by 2030, 10 million tons of graphite will be required to cover the fleet. According to the European Carbon and Graphite Association (ECGA), there are only two small mines in the EU—located in Austria and in Germany—but the mined grades are not suitable for energy storage applications.
Samsung SDI, LG Chem, and Panasonic—the three largest manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries—are all looking for sustainable alternatives thus putting a strain on Chinese imported graphite.
Every battery manufacturer is challenged by insufficient raw materials. It’s encouraging to see green and local initiatives like UP Catalyst’s, which could help to ensure a much more sustainable supply chain while clogging a major supply gap.—Dr. Stefan Permien, CEO of UniverCell Holding GmbH
The long-term vision includes every step of the process being done locally and on-site from sourcing the raw materials to actual battery production, hence eliminating transportation costs and emissions from the supply chain.
We need to create a supply chain that fulfills environmental, ethical, and social standards, only then our ambition to become the first climate-neutral continent is achievable.—Bernd Schaefer, CEO of EIT RawMaterials
UP Catalyst uses a molten salt carbon capture and electrochemical transformation (MSCC-ET) method to reprocess CO2 from heavy industry flue gases into carbon nanomaterials and graphite. The process is powered by either wind, solar or hydro energy resulting in a carbon negative production line.
Such carbon-negative products have various applications ranging from paints and coatings to electronics and concrete. In the past year, the company has secured €4.3 million in grants and has expanded its customer base outside of the European borders.
UP Catalyst is now in the process of upscaling its production. By 2030 the company will be able to transform 1 million tons of CO2 annually for the production of sustainable carbon materials.