SK Innovation overtakes Torray on battery’s separator market

SK Innovation ranked third in the lithium-ion battery separator market. It is meaningful in that it increased its market share amid fierce competition among major companies for expansion.

As of 2019, SK Innovation’s subsidiary SK IE Technology (SKIET) surpassed Japan’s Toray (9%) and ranked third in the separator market (10%). It is the second time since 2014 that SK IE Technology has beaten Toray. At the time, Toray rose from 2nd to 3rd, and SK iE Technology from 3rd to 2nd place. Afterwards, Toray succeeded in retaking the 3rd place in 2018 due to aggressive expansion, but the ranking changed again.

Currently, the number one in the market is Shanghai Eun-cheok, China. Japan’s Asahi Kasei, the undisputed number one in 2019, was pushed out. A huge offensive was launched. In 2019, the production capacity of the separation membrane in Shanghai was expected to be 2.3 billion square meters (㎡), and 2.9 billion square meters this year. Asahi Kasei has 900 million square meters and SK IE Technology has 530 million square meters.

Looking at future expansion plans, the top three contenders are SEMCORP, Asahi Kasei, and SK AI Technology are expected. Recently, the SEMCORP issued a new stock worth 5 billion yuan (869.5 billion won) and announced additional expansion. Asahi Kasei decided to expand the production of separators to 1.55 billion square meters per year by 2021.

SK IE Technology plans to operate a new plant of 670 million square meters in Changzhou, China from the fourth quarter of this year to the first quarter of 2022. The 340 million m2 separator plant is under construction in Dabrowa Gornicza, Poland which is also scheduled to be completed next year. In the second half of 2021, the total production capacity of globally is expected to reach 1.38 billion m2, which is expected to exceed the current double.

The market’s top 5 landscape is also expected to change. Japan’s Ube, which ran in fifth place, was pushed out. The current production is 400 million m2 per year. Sooner or later, more than 600 million square meters will be added. In addition, Sinoma Science & Technology’s subsidiary Sinoma Lithium Film is also actively expanding. It is highly likely that three of the top 5 separator companies will be occupied by Chinese companies in the future.

The global separator market is growing rapidly in line with the popularization of electric vehicles (EV). The average annual growth rate of the separator market from 2017 to 2021 based on mid- to large-sized batteries is expected to be 32.4%, more than 5 times that of 5.2% for small-sized batteries.