WEF: making manufacturing more sustainable after COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting global manufacturing demand and supply chains, workforce availability, energy use and CO2 emissions. As a result, global energy-related CO2 emissions are set to reduce almost 8% in 2020 to their lowest level in a decade. The UN advises global emissions must be reduced to this same extent, each year, for the next decade to limit global warming to 1.5˚C.
Over the past three months, manufacturing has been forced to transform at an unprecedented rate, both to find ways to innovate given the scarcity of resources and to scale digital transformation. The emissions reductions caused by crisis constraints is insightful and provides hope that dramatic change is possible — but it is essential to act now. With a plethora of resources, people will not be driven to innovate or challenge the status quo. By engineering within our planet’s constraints, industry can set the baselines for what must be considered and elevate what can be achieved sustainably.
Companies with a greater commitment to environmental, social and governance (ESG) benchmarking and reporting regimes continue to prove their ability to weather periods of uncertainty in the market better than their peers. According to a recent Blackrock report, despite the recent turmoil, companies with a record of good customer relations or robust corporate culture are showcasing resilient financial performance. Over 90% of sustainable indices have outperformed their parent benchmarks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In reshaping the world towards a new normal, the industry should leverage digital transformation at an accelerated pace. This is typically for productivity, digital transformation is equally effective in achieving economic and environmental resilience. To capitalise on the convergence of Industry 4.0 and ESG goals, industry leaders must enable operational efficiency, leverage renewable energy, practice lifecycle thinking and promote supply chain data transparency.
Most production facilities are passive participants in the global energy supply chain. They monitor overall energy use and costs associated with available sources, however, are often overlooked by the controllable factors inside operations that enable consumption management in a way that brings value to the business. Manufacturers must evaluate and optimise individual, energy-intensive processes within operations by monitoring and measuring the process units, lines and machines consuming energy and then controlling overall consumption, economics and emissions.
The cost of renewable energy is driving its exponential adoption. Based on the levelised cost of energy, the cost of solar panels per watt in 1977 was $77, while in 2020 it is $0.14. Favourable economics paired with modern business models allow highly decentralised and digitised assets to be successful. Digital technologies that enable bi-directional control and connectivity when paired with distributed energy resources - such as solar plus battery storage - unlock new opportunities for flexible demand and curtailment. This includes peak load shedding, participation in automatic demand response management, buying and trading energy into the market, or dynamically shifting operations to match the availability of solar power and battery storage systems.
Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing
Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing
What is Ultium Cells LLC?
Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”
Who is Li-Cycle?
Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.
As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”
Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?
By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.
“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).
"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.
"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.
Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.
"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.