Nornickel, the world’s largest producer of palladium and high-grade nickel and a major producer of platinum, cobalt and copper, announces plans to increase output at its nickel refinery in Finland.

Nornickel Harjavalta will increase its producing capacity for nickel to meet the demands of the electric cars industry. Photograph: Ivan Radic/Flickr

Nornickel Harjavalta’s plan to increase capacity is driven by the growing European market demand for battery raw materials.

In practice, the nickel output in Harjavalta during the first phase of the expansion will increase from the current 65,000 tons to 75,000 tons in 2023 and during the second phase to over 100,000 tons by early 2026. While ramping up the output, the plant also expects to produce at least 40,000 tons of nickel sulfate solution. Enough for the electric cars industry to produce one million electric vehicles a year.

With its production increase, Nornickel aims to meet the growing demand for battery materials for electric vehicles in Europe.

Hautojärvi told Finnish newspaper Kauppalehti that the production capacity of batteries in Europe will be increased by 500 gigawatt-hours by 2030.

“In this case, the demand for nickel in the battery market will rise to 300,000 tons per year,” Hautojärvi said.

According to the company, the investment is also driven by an actively developing battery cluster in Finland.

Nornickel Harjavalta is exploring the development of its battery recycling business with Fortum and German chemicals giant BASF, which is building a battery materials factory in Harjavalta.

Nornickel Harjavalta is mainly powered by renewable energy and is a specialist in the production of high purity nickel with the most extensive nickel product portfolio in Europe.

The company has been producing nickel in Harjavalta for 60 years, and the current production increase is, according to Hautojärvi, “one of the biggest investments” in its history.

Investing in the first phase means putting more money to the equipment base and, also, into removing possible bottlenecks in the process. The second stage includes building a new production facility.

As the production increases, specific emissions from the plant fall. Harjavalta monitors its environmental footprint rigorously and has been an active participant in the studies of the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla) for several decades.

“We will work within the framework of the current permits,” Hautojärvi said.

Harjavalta’s turnover last year was €1.1 billion. The final figure has not yet been published. In 2019, the company’s operating income was just around €70 million.

Nornickel Harjavalta employs about 300 people. About 500 people work inside the factory gate, including service personnel and other partner employees. Future investments mean significant productivity gains.

According to Hautojärvi, the number of employees will increase by several dozen. The degree of automation in the plant has been significantly increased.

Nickel and cobalt are delivered to Harjavalta from Russia by rail. The increase in production also implies investments in logistics, the company noted.

Earlier, the Finnish government published a Battery Strategy, which will aim to strengthen the battery sector ecosystem and stimulate sustainable low-carbon economic growth in Finland.

The plan aims to foster business revival, innovation and growth potential, thereby creating new jobs. Proposals will also be formulated to promote research and technical development related to sustainable e-transport and alternative battery technologies.

Harjavalta is located in Western Finland in the Satakunta region. Nickel and copper industries are the biggest employers in the town of about 7,000 inhabitants.