Bilfinger is supporting Norwegian-based technology company REEtec with EPCM services for a new processing plant for neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr). Known as “magnet metals”, these two rare earth elements (REE) are key to the production of the permanent magnets used in the motors for electric vehicles (EVs) and wind turbines. Bilfinger had previously supported REEtec in the study phases and construction of a pilot plant for its proprietary sustainable and efficient technology; now the industrial services provider is also contributing to the industrial upscaling.
“Building resilience and strategic autonomy for Europe’s REE value chains is crucial for the energy transition. REEtec’s process combines high efficiency and competitive cost structure with best in class environmental friendliness. We are therefore proud that REEtec is once again relying on Bilfinger’s services and that we can support our customer bring its technology to industrial scale,” says Bilfinger Group CEO Thomas Schulz.
As with the demonstration plant, which has been in operation at Herøya Industrial Park since 2019, Bilfinger subsidiary Bilfinger Nordics is handling project management, engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) on behalf of REEtec. To ensure efficient implementation and high quality in the design process, the industrial services provider is developing a 3D-model based on scans of all buildings and facilities. In addition, Bilfinger will support the customer during the testing and commissioning phase.
“Bilfinger has demonstrated its high level of expertise in the study phases and in the construction of the pilot plant. We are pleased to continue our long-standing cooperation in the construction of our first industrial-scale plant,” says Sigve Sporstøl, CEO of REEtec.
The European Commission regards REEs as critical materials for achieving climate neutrality by 2050. Once completed, the REEtec plant on Herøya will have a capacity of 720 tons of magnetic metals per year from the second half of 2024. To illustrate, there is between half a kilogram and one kilogram of this product in every electric car. The production capacity is equivalent to 5% of the estimated demand in the EU, and the market is expected to increase fivefold by 2030.
REEs occur as constituents in various minerals, the most important sources being bastnaesite, monazite, xenotime and ionic clay. These minerals typically contain several percent by weight of REEs. Depending on the ore, distribution between the different REEs can vary greatly. The 16 REEs generally all occur together in the same mineral deposits. Their separation into individual elements of high purity is difficult and expensive due to their chemical similarity.
REEtec’s proprietary technology is considered groundbreaking because it can reduce CO2 emissions by 90% compared to other leading suppliers, as virtually all consumables are recovered and reutilised in the process and electricity consumption is based fully on hydro-electric sources.