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Case Study: E-waste company TES takes an M&A approach to battery recycling

Abhirabh Basu, Analyst
August 23, 2021

TES, a global player in electronic waste recycling, was founded in 2005 in Singapore and is backed by Navis Capital Partners, one of largest private equity companies in Southeast Asia with more than $5 billion under management. TES offers services to technology companies, IT equipment providers, and electronics OEMs. It has customers in about 80 countries. Since its inception, TES' services have included takeback and transport of electronics and batteries to its processing centers in Asia. More recently, the company entered battery recycling to close the loop for its OEM customers, helping them acquire carbon credits and achieve sustainability goals.

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USE CASE AND BUSINESS IMPACT

In 2019, TES acquired French battery recycler Recupyl's assets and IP after it went bankrupt. The technology recovers Li, Co, Ni, Mn, Cu, and Al from Li-ion batteries (including LFP), alkaline, and zinc-carbon batteries. Recupyl developed a two-step process. First, it discharges and dismantles the battery using dry mechanical treatment under inert conditions. Next, it uses a patented hydrometallurgical process involving sulfuric acid leaching (Cu, Ni, Mn, and Co are recovered as sulfate salts), followed by hydrogen peroxide as a reducing agent to accelerate leaching times. Recupyl developed one of the few processes today at scale that recovers Li from the electrodes and fluorine-based anions (PVDF binder), as well as Li ions from spent electrolyte.

TES' second move into battery recycling was an investment in Singapore-based Green Li-ion which recycles cathode metal salts from Li-ion and LFP batteries. There is limited information on its technical capabilities but Green Li-ion's technology will be integrated into TES’s existing battery recycling facilities. Its "multi-cathode" processor and control unit exceeds 90% recovery and delivers 99% purity of cathode materials to be directly used in cathode production. Green Li-ion claims to deliver higher purity rates on commodities like graphite and cathode metal salts as well as Co and Li extracted from Li-ion batteries.

#LUXTAKE

As a leading e-waste recycler, TES is well-connected across the waste collection, sorting, and recycling value chain. The company is familiar with policy, regulations, and management of hazardous materials. The acquisition of Recupyl creates a regional battery recycling center, even though its can only process 110 tons per year, for TES within Europe. Additionally, TES has the opportunity to build on Recupyl's business model of patent licenses as well as potentially scaling up Recupyl's 2,500 ton per year plant in the U.S., which was established through a joint venture with Battery Solutions.

On the other hand, TES is looking to expand its recycling efforts in Asia. With China banning imports of black mass for further refining, other Asian countries, including South Korea, Japan, and Singapore, will become important hubs for battery recycling. TES' investments in Recupyl and Green Li-ion will see a $20 million, 14 ton per day (3,700 ton per year) plant open in 2021. While big automotive OEMs and cell manufacturers announce plans to move into Li-ion battery recycling, companies shouldn't discount traditional waste management companies. Logistics remain a challenge for the industry, and companies like TES have already built their business around collection and transport.

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