SK Innovation boosts lithium-ion battery status

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SK Innovation boosts lithium-ion battery status

SK Innovation has become the world’s second-largest producer of lithium-ion battery separators (LiBS), the key component of secondary cell, or rechargeable, batteries, according to industry sources Thursday.

Although the Korean energy company has been struggling in its oil refinery business due to the falling price of crude, its new growth business - LiBS - has improved significantly thanks to demand for smartphones and other mobile devices, including laptops, that use lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. The same component also is crucial in the development electric vehicle batteries.

Thanks to additional manufacturing lines that started operating in March and in July, SK Innovation’s overall LiBS production has grown from last year’s 171.6 million square meters to 249.2 million.

The world’s No.1 manufacturer, Asahi Kasei, has produced 255 million square meters so far this year.

The two new production lines helped SK Innovation surpass the world’s second-largest manufacturer, U.S.-based Celgard (240 million square meters), and the third-largest, Japan’s Toray (180 million).

SK Innovation has been aggressively expanding its LiBS business since it became the third company in the world to develop its own technology.

In just 10 years, the company established a total of nine LiBS production lines.

Previously, the Japanese companies dominated the market with a share of roughly 80 percent.

The LiBS business is believed to provide steady revenue for the Korean company as it is less sensitive to the overall economy, with demand and the number of applications continuing to grow.

The technology is so advanced and complex that it wouldn’t be easy for competitors to develop.

Since the company initiated commercial production in 2005, the accumulated revenue generated from the LiBS business has amounted to more than 800 billion won ($727 million).

SK Innovation is currently the No.1 manufacturer in the local market.

Other related business being pursued by SK Innovation in the electronic material market includes triacetyl cellulose (TAC) film and flexible copper clad laminates (FCC).

BY LEE HO-JEONG [ojlee82@joongang.co.kr]

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