US lead-acid battery recycling start-up Aqua Metals is set to open the world’s first smelterless plant within months, according to the firm’s latest corporate update.
The company aims to complete construction of its Nevada AquaRefining™ plant by the second quarter and begin lead recycling using its electrowinning technology soon after.
The company also plans to ramp up production of its AquaRefining modules at its headquarters in Alameda, California, where they plan to eventually assemble around 160 modules a year, enough to recycle 800 tons of lead a day, say the firm.
Once operational the Nevada plant will produce up to 80 metric tons of lead per day— 0.2% of the world’s 38,000 tonnes a day supply— by 2017; this equates to recycling 150 tons of scrap lead-acid batteries using 16 of the AquaRefining modules.
The company plans to ramp this up to 160 metric tons by 2018, subject to receipt of required expansion funds.
The company says it can recover 50% alloy and 50% pure lead from used batteries.
Wirtz Manufacturing will be a key partner in the venture, providing a pre-crushing acid collection system, breaking and separating equipment and water treatment and a lead ingot casting system.
Dr. Stephen Clarke, chairman and CEO of Aqua Metals, said: “We expect 2016 will be a monumental year, not only for Aqua Metals, but the lead recycling industry as a whole.
“Lead is a $22billion market opportunity supporting the $60billion lead-acid battery industry, and lead-acid batteries are critical to many high growth industries.
“Not only is that not going away, but it’s growing considerably. One of the unique features of lead-acid batteries is they’re almost 100% recycled and in fact recycled lead equates to about 60% of the world’s supply of lead.
“But that is in fact reliant on smelting, which is antiquated, often polluting, inefficient and expensive.
“So we have developed a clean and cost effective alternative to that, which makes higher purity lead at a lower cost and lower pollution, and doesn’t have to be large scale to be cost effective.”
Aqua Metals also plans to add to its senior management team with these hires set to be announced soon.
Aqua Metals' long-term goal is to bring AquaRefining to the battery sources, across the US near battery distribution/collection and manufacturing points. It may also supply equipment/services or enter into JVs and/or partnerships to generate growth capital.