POSCO ramps up cathode capacity ambitions to meet Tier 1 battery demand

Korea’s POSCO Chemical has completed construction of the final stage of a new 20,000 tpa high nickel NCM (nickel, cobalt, manganese) cathode production plant in Gwangyang, South Korea.

The plant began initial operations in 2019, becoming the company’s second NCM production line. According to the Benchmark Cathode Assessment the company now has total installed capacity of 35,000 tpa, with an additional 20,000 tpa facility – which POSCO is developing in partnership with Huayou –  due to begin commercial production in China by the end of 2020.

Production from the Gwangyang facility will supply into Tier 1 battery producers for electric vehicle applications, particularly LG Chem, which is one of POSCO’s leading customers.

In Q1 2020, POSCO further extended its relationship with LG Chem by signing a deal worth $1.54 billion to supply Korea’s biggest battery maker with high nickel cathodes. The deal runs through to 2023 and is supporting POSCO’s cathode capacity build out. Under the terms of the agreement, POSCO will supply the tier 1 battery maker with 125,000 tonnes of NCM materials over a three-year period.

POSCO is aiming to add another 35,000 tpa capacity taking its total to 90,000 tpa across four production lines in South Korea and one in China. Expansions are geared towards high nickel cathodes (NCM 622/811), which accounted for 96% of its 15,800 tonnes of production in 2019 according to the latest data from the Benchmark Cathode Market Assessment.

POSCO has bold ambitions and aims to have a 20% share of the cathode market by 2030. The company has already made significant steps, having increased output from 2,600 tonnes in 2018 to over 15,800 in 2019. Its current plans and construction efforts will see the company expand its total cathode capacity from 55,000 to 90,000 tonnes as it scales up to meet Tier 1 demand growth.

The company also has ambitions to increase its market share of the anode market and has plans to increase its anode production capacity from 44,000 tonnes to 116,000 tonnes as it ramps up production according to the latest from Benchmark’s Anode Market Assessment.