After the announcement of the arrival of the Taiwanese company Prologium, the Chinese company XTC and its French partner Orano have chosen to set up in the Grand Port Maritime of Dunkirk.
The announcement was made official at the Choose France Summit.
XTC-Orano: a joint venture for cathode production in Hauts-de-France
In 2020, XTC New Energy (a subsidiary of the Chinese government-owned Xiamen Tungsten Corporation, the leader in tungsten-related activities*) wanted to expand outside Asia and launched a search for a production site in Europe.
Several European countries including France were targeted.
XTC quickly wanted to work with a national partner.
The encounter with the French group Orano in 2021 was decisive.
After re-evaluating the market, the development radically changed its dimension.
Because of their converging ambitions and the enormous potential of this partnership, the two giants decided to create two joint ventures for the production of critical materials for electric vehicle batteries.
By 2030, this much more ambitious project will represent an investment of around €1.5 billion and will allow for the creation of 1,700 jobs.
From a cathode material production site to a 360° project
The project’s initial specifications involved the search for a site in Europe for the production of lithium battery cathode materials for electric vehicles.
In the end, 4 complementary activities will be implemented at the Dunkirk Maritime Port:
1. the production of cathode precursors (PCAM)
Cathode precursors are made of a mixed metal hydroxide of nickel, cobalt and other chemical elements.
They can be marketed to cathode manufacturers.
2. the production of cathode active materials (CAM)
This production comes from the PCAM calcination process.
CAMs are sold directly to electric battery manufacturers.
3. and 4. the recycling of materials contained in the batteries and of PCAM production waste
This activity, which will be carried out solely by Orano, will bring together the two aspects of battery recycling:
- Pretreatment: which consists in dissociating the organic compounds and the carbon from the “blackmass” (the rest of the recoverable materials in a battery).
- Hydrometallurgy: a more strategic step, which allows for the dissociation of each material (nickel, cobalt, lithium, copper, etc.) from the “blackmass”.
An R&D center should also be created to design products that meet the demands of the French and European automotive industry.
The arrival of this new stakeholder and all of their skills will enrich the regional and national ecosystem.
XTC is a new important supplier in the production and recycling cycle of lithium batteries for electric vehicles.
Why did XTC and Orano choose to set up in Hauts-de-France?
In France, the search for a location focused on two regions due to their proximity to the French-German border and international ports:
- And Hauts-de-France
The power consumption and land requirements for this project are significant.
The XTC / Orano joint venture wanted 43 hectares near a deep water seaport with direct connections to China with a direct rail spur or near a major rail and highway network.
The automotive ecosystem and the presence of gigafactories convinced the group to continue its search in Hauts-de-France.
A project that received effective support from Nord France Invest and its partners
The partnership between the French government, the Grand Port Maritime of Dunkirk, Business France, the Region and its agency Nord France Invest, the Urban Community of Dunkirk and its agency Dunkerque Promotion, was decisive in the choice of XTC and ORANO.
NFI was involved in searching for and visiting sites as well as putting the company in touch with local companies.
Who are XTC and Orano?
*XTC New Energy
XTC New Energy is a subsidiary of the Chinese government-owned Xiamen Tungsten Corporation, a leader in tungsten-related activities.
Founded in 2016, the company quickly became the world’s leading manufacturer of cathodes for batteries for the electric vehicle market.
It is also one of the first national model companies for circular economy development, as well as one of the top six rare earth companies in China.
Xiamen Tungsten Corporation Group employs nearly 16,000 people worldwide, including over 2,500 at XTC New Energy.
As a recognized international operator in the field of nuclear materials, Orano provides solutions to current and future challenges in the energy and health sectors.
Its expertise and mastery of cutting-edge technologies allow Orano to offer its customers high value-added products and services throughout the fuel cycle.
Thanks to their skills, their high standards of safety and security and their constant quest for innovation, all of the group’s 17,000 employees are committed to developing expertise in the transformation and control of nuclear materials, for the sake of the climate, for health and for a resource-efficient world, both now and in the future.