What is Nickel Sulfate

Nickel sulfate hexahydrate (NiSO4·6H2O) a blue chemical metal salt product with its main industrial application as the main raw material in the production of high-nickel ternary cathode material, a principal component material for ternary type EV-Type LiB used in EV.

Nickel Sulfate Hexahydrate

 

Table 1: Product Characteristics

Elements Jinchuan

Group Co., Ltd

Jilin Jien Nickel

Industry Co., Ltd

GEM

Co., Ltd

Indicators Assay Grade Composition
Ni 22.15 22.2 21.5
Co 0.003 0.001
Cu 0.00012 0.001 0.001
Fe 0.00035 0.001 0.001
Pb 0.00015 0.001 0.001
Zn 0.00015 0.001 0.001
Ca 0.0007 0.001
Mg 0.002 0.001
Cr 0.0003 0.0005 0.001
Cd 0.00015 0.0005 0.001
Na 0.0003 0.001
Hg 0.0001 0.0005 0.001
Si 0.001
Al 0.001
Cl 0.008 0.01
Water-insoluble 0.0025 0.003 0.02
Oil content 0.00014
Magnetic foreign matter 60ppb

Today there are five main products of ternary cathode material including NCM111, NCM523, NCM622, NCM811 and NCA. Except for NCA, the last three digits represent the portion of metal salt contained within each unit. As shown, each advancement in NCM technology represents an incremental increase in the amount of nickel sulfate used.

Table 2: Ternary Material Cathode Types

Cathode NCM523 NCM622 NCM811 NCA
SEM Image  

 

 

 

 

Technical Indicators Appearance: Black powder

Tap Density: 2.20 g/cm3

Li: 7.40±0.20wt%

Ni: 30±1.00wt%

Co: 11.85±1.00wt%

Mn: 16.70±1.00wt%

Gram Capacity >160mAh/g

First time efficiency >87.0%

Appearance: Black powder

Tap Density: 2.20 g/cm3

Li: 7.40±0.20wt%

Ni: 36.10±1.00wt%

Co: 12.30±1.00wt%

Mn: 11.20±1.00wt%

Gram Capacity >170mAh/g

First time efficiency >87.0%

Appearance: Black powder

Tap Density: 2.20 g/cm3

Li: 7.40±0.20wt%

Ni: 47.50±1.50wt%

Co: 6.60±0.60wt%

Mn: 5.50±0.60wt%

Gram Capacity >190mAh/g

First time efficiency >87.0%

Appearance: Black powder

Tap Density: 2.20 g/cm3

Li: 7.40±0.20wt%

Ni: 56.00±1.50wt%

Co: 5.80±0.60wt%

Mn: 0.50±0.20wt%

Gram Capacity >160mAh/g

First time efficiency >86.0%

Table 3: Production Cash Cost using Electrolytic Nickel

Battery Type Chemical Formula Molecular Weight Contained Ni Ratio Corresponding Nickel Sulfate Corresponding nickel sulfate hexahydrate
NCM111 LiNi1/3Co1/3Mn/302 96.52 0.20 0.53 0.91
NCM523 LiNi0/5Co0/2Mn/302 96.62 0.30 0.80 1.36
NCM622 LiNi0/6Co0/2Mn/302 96.99 0.36 0.96 1.63
NCM811 LiNi0/8Co0/1Mn/102 97.35 0.48 1.27 2.16
NCA LiNi0/8Co15Al0/0592 96.4 0.49 1.28 2.18

Industrial Chain

Demand for nickel sulfate from EV-Type LiB is expected to exacerbate the tight supply of nickel sulfide. Ternary material used in new energy vehicle EV-Type LiB uses nickel sulfate as the main raw material, and the raw material for nickel sulfate production is mainly nickel sulfide concentrate and intermediate nickel products derived from processing nickel laterite.

Nickel Sulfate Processing Methods

Nickel sulfate production processing methods includes smelting nickel sulfide concentrate as the raw material following by using a hydrometallurgical processing method or alternatively using electrolytic nickel to produce nickel sulfate by acid dissolution. Other raw materials used to produce nickel sulfate is mainly from using the High Pressure Acid Leach (“HPAL”) method on nickel laterite ore, nickel contained ore, and recycled nickel.

Nickel sulfate produced using electrolytic nickel as the raw material has the best purity and quality. This process is mostly used in overseas countries. The majority of domestic production of nickel sulfate uses nickel concentrate and nickel intermediate products, and its cash cost is relatively low. The rise of the electric vehicle industry has broken the supply balance of nickel sulfide ore, which once caused tight supply. At present, most nickel producers have begun to focus on the nickel sulfate industry, which is the raw material side of nickel for electric vehicles.

The production process of nickel sulfate mainly includes laterite nickel ore as raw material, nickel sulfide ore as raw material and waste as raw material. Among them, nickel hydroxide is an intermediate product processed from nickel ore into nickel sulfate.

The method for preparing nickel sulfate from nickel hydroxide is to use the "acid hydrolysis-precipitation" method to treat the nickel hydroxide to obtain crude nickel sulfate, and then remove impurities and crystallise to obtain high-purity nickel sulfate.

Nickel Sulphide Processing

Jilin Jien Nickel Industry Co., Ltd and Jinchuan Group Co., Ltd use nickel sulphide as raw material to produce nickel sulfate. In 2001, Jien Nickel Industry Co., Ltd borrowed from the selective leaching process of Outokumpu smelter in Finland and Fukang smelter in Xinjiang, and changed its product to "nickel sulfate" to build a 10,000tpa nickel sulfate project.

Jinchuan Group Co., Ltd has slightly improved the product part based on the process adopted by Jilin Jien Nickel Industry Co., Ltd. That is, P507 is used to extract impurities and separate nickel and cobalt from the normal pressure leaching solution. Resulting in production of electrolytic nickel and a small part is used to produce nickel sulfate.

Nickel Laterite Processing

Laterite nickel ore generally contains 1.0% to 1.8% of Ni, and Mg contains up to 20%, and the Mg grade is relatively high. In the process of producing nickel sulfate from nickel laterite ore, it is necessary to focus on reducing the leaching rate of Mg and maximizing Mg Recycling. The technology of combined treatment of laterite nickel ore and nickel-cobalt hydroxide is used to ammonia leaching the nickel hydroxide obtained after removing impurities from the normal pressure sulfuric acid leaching solution of laterite nickel ore to avoid the dissolution of Mg during the acid dissolution of nickel hydroxide and ammonia leaching solution.

After selective extraction, sulfuric acid back extraction, and then evaporation and crystallization to obtain industrial nickel sulfate products. Nickel sulfate is produced from waste materials. Among nickel-containing wastes, electroplating wastes, catalysts, battery wastes, and waste alloys can be used to recover nickel.

Cash Cost Analysis

From the perspective of pricing, the price of battery-grade nickel sulfate in the open market is relatively stable, with strong correlation to the downstream consumption of nickel sulfate. In 2018, the price of nickel sulfate remained around 27,000 CNY per tonne (US$4,000/t).

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