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battery recycling

Lead batteries blamed for increased blood lead levels in 632M children from LMIC countries

Fri, 01/07/2022 - 12:36 -- Paul Crompton

Informal lead-acid battery recycling and manufacturing remains a contributory factor for children’s elevated blood lead levels in emerging countries around the world.

The findings were published by Lancet Planet Health following an investigation into the leading sources of lead exposure to people living in 49 developing countries. 

An estimated 632 million children in low-income and middle-income countries (LMIC) are estimated to have a blood lead level exceeding 5 μg/dL; and 413 million were estimated to exceed the previous reference value of 10 μg/dL.

Last October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its blood lead reference value (BLRV) from 5 µg/dL to 3.5 µg/dL in response to the Lead Exposure Prevention and Advisory Committee (LEPAC) recommendation made on May 14, 2021. 

The Lancet report stated: “Given the toxicity of lead, even at low amounts of exposure, urgent attention is required to control exposures and to expand population-based sampling in countries with no or scant data. 

“Major sources of lead exposure were informal lead acid battery recycling and manufacture, metal mining and processing, electronic waste, and the use of lead as a food adulterant, primarily in spices.”

In Mexico, lead-based ceramic glazes were a significant source of exposure, stated the report.

Lead exposure in LMICs

According to Lancet, reports have suggested that lead exposure remains substantial or is increasing in some LMICs but few studies have attempted to systematically assess blood lead levels over the full range. 

Data on blood lead level were extracted and pooled, as appropriate, to make country-specific estimates of the distribution of background blood lead levels among children and adults, along with information on specific sources of exposure where available. 

The researchers searched the PubMed database for the 137 countries in the World bank LMIC grouping.

The search yielded 12,695 studies (between 2010 and 2019). There were 520 unique studies included (1,100 sampled populations from 49 countries comprising more than 1 million individuals). 

Pooled mean blood lead concentrations in children ranged from 1·66 μg/dL in Ethiopia to 9·30 μg/dL in Palestine; in adults the range went from 0·39 μg/dL in Sudan to 11·36 μg/dL in Pakistan. 

Historical causes of exposure

The report noted the greatest historical source of lead exposure was the use of tetraethyl lead as an anti-knocking agent in petrol, which resulted in the dispersion of at least nine million tonnes of lead into the environment.

The global phase-out of leaded petrol began in the US during 1975, and was progressively adopted by high-income countries (HICs) in the 1980s and 1990s.

As a result, the average level of lead in the blood for people aged 1–74 years in the US decreased by 78%, from 12·8 μg/dL to 2·8 μg/dL; similar decreases were noted in other HICs such as Sweden and Germany between 1976 and 1991.

Phase-outs were slow to be adopted in LMICs, but by the end of 2005 nearly all had eliminated use of leaded petrol in automobiles.

Image: Pooled mean background blood lead levels in children in 34 low-income and middle-income countries with available data 

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Feedstock concerns to stymie EV battery recycling goals— but China’s market remains appealing

Tue, 12/21/2021 - 09:56 -- Paul Crompton

Lithium-ion electric vehicle battery recycling is not expected to “take off” before 2030 despite a number of projects launching across the globe in the last two years. 

New, cheaper virgin materials, and a lack of feedstock were named as major barriers to the lithium-ion battery recycling sector in a report by market analysts Wood Mackenzie (Wood Mac).

With economies of scale bringing down the cost of battery manufacturing, and cell makers “leaning towards using cheaper materials” recyclers must increase the efficiency of their processes to maintain profit, states the report. 

Moreover, the introduction of new materials such as solid-state electrolytes will require recyclers to retrofit their processes.

Max Reid, research analyst Wood Mackenzie’s battery raw materials service, pointed to the lack of recyclable feedstock as a major barrier due to the limited number of end-of-life (EoL) batteries available for recycling, because EV penetration at the beginning of the decade is much lower than at the end— and EVs have lifespans reaching up to 15 years.

Need for recycling 

The recycling sector is already aggressively scaling up, despite the lack of available secondary supply from recycling.

According to Wood Mac’s analysis, the total capacity of planned recycling facilities will still overshoot feedstock in 2030 when end of life (EoL) EV numbers begin to ramp up.

The resulting supply imbalance will leave independent recyclers, especially in North America and Europe, scrambling to secure a supply of used EV batteries, say Wood Mac.  

That imbalance is, in part, because of China’s appealing location for battery recycling— with companies benefitting from greater integration with nearby cathode production plants— that allows them to bid much higher prices for used batteries than their Western counterparts.

This is unlikely to change until North America and Europe have developed more integrated raw material supply chains, notes the report.

Reid said: “Bullish expectations for lithium-ion recycling may well lead to a rush of new entrants to the space. However, limitations on feedstocks mean that only the large and integrated will likely survive and reap the rewards in later years.”

The lithium-ion EV pack recycling industry is highlighted by reports of potential shortages in the supply chain by 2030.

For example, market analysts Roskill predict lithium carbonate equivalent demand will increase 4.5 times to two million tonnes, and cobalt demand will almost double to 270,000 tonnes by 2030 (from 2020 figures).

Analysts CRU forecast EV battery makers will require around 120,000 tonnes, or nearly 45% of the total cobalt supply by 2025, compared with 39,000 tonnes last year.

A new cathode facility will produce 50 kilo-tonnes per annum (ktpa) of NMC (nickel, manganese and cobalt) material (enough for around 400,000 EVs), whilst a recycling facility will typically process 5-10 ktpa of e-waste (around 30,000 EV-packs yearly).

EV adoption 

Wood Mackenzie predicts global passenger car sales will grow from just under 7% (of all electric vehicle sales) to 23% by 2030— with 89% of lithium-ion battery demand coming from the EV sector by 2040.

Max Reid, research analyst Wood Mackenzie’s battery raw materials service, said: “Underneath the surface of this electric future lies a relatively young supply chain struggling to keep up. The lithium-ion battery demand market can fluctuate over months and expanding upstream and midstream to produce battery materials involves lead times of several years.

“As it is a new industry, there is limited historic capacity to flip the switch on, and yet many see this as a ripe environment for recycling to make a tangible impact.

“This decade will see the supply chain further establish itself to be able to supply vast quantities of battery-grade chemicals and cathodes to cell manufacturers, whilst recyclers will struggle with the large mass and complexity of EV-packs.” 

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Mercedes announces plans for an EV lithium-ion battery recycling plant in Germany

Wed, 12/01/2021 - 14:24 -- Paul Crompton

Vehicle OEM Mercedes-Benz, a subsidiary of Daimler, is planning the construction of a battery recycling factory in Kuppenheim, Germany.

Start of operations is planned for 2023, depending on the outcome of discussions with public authorities.

The plan is part of the German firm’s ‘closing the loop’ philosophy to recover raw materials at the end of a battery's life.

Mercedes already ensures the battery housings, cables and the power rails can be recycled, and is involved in the research and development of new recycling technologies and their establishment on the market. 

Part of the work involves working with specialised partner companies, and participating in funding and research projects focused on the reuse of raw materials. 

Mercedes-Benz said it will go all electric by the end of the decade— with the caveat “where market conditions allow”. 

Next year, Mercedes-Benz will have battery electric vehicles in all segments the company serves and, from 2025 onwards, all newly launched vehicle architectures will be electric-only.

Ongoing battery research

Last year, Mercedes-Benz announced plans to research ways to design cobalt and other “critical” materials like lithium out of lithium-ion batteries.

The OEM is looking at a variety of post-lithium-ion batteries— mainly based on manganese— that use less critical resources, as it investigates ways of increasing the energy density of its technology.

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American Manganese produces 99.99% pure lithium sulfate from recycled lithium-ion batteries

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 22:30 -- Paul Crompton

American Manganese has successfully produced lithium sulfate (Li2SO4) with 99.99% purity using its lithium-ion battery recycling process. 

The bulk sample of lithium sulfate was manufactured using the Canadian firm’s RecycLiCo™ process and sent to an unnamed international lithium producer for validation.

The process first leached lithium-ion battery cathode scrap and black-mass material with an extraction efficiency of more than 99%. 

The resulting pregnant leach solution was then coprecipitated to produce cathode precursor material (nickel, cobalt, and manganese). 

The remaining solution underwent separate extraction of high purity lithium sulfate while regenerating process chemicals for the closed-loop process. 

Together, the cathode precursor and lithium sulfate product accounts for most of the lithium-ion battery's material value and can be re-integrated into new battery manufacturing. 

Larry Reaugh, president and CEO of American Manganese, said: "To produce green batteries, you need 'green' lithium, and we are thrilled to be engaged with companies that recognise the promise of RecycLiCo. We are confident that our product will align with the lithium-ion battery industry's needs, and which will unlock long-term environmental benefits." 

Throughout American Manganese's R&D and pilot plant project, the company successfully produced other lithium derivatives such as lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate.

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US lead-acid battery recycler accused of exposing workers to lead hazards

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 11:07 -- Paul Crompton

Lead battery recycling firm Gopher Resource has been accused of failing to prevent its workers from being exposed to “lead inhalation hazards”, a US federal workplace safety investigation found.

Despite warnings since March 2020 of unsafe measures of lead exposure, the firm failed to make changes required by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at its Tampa, Florida, battery recycling facility and smelter.

The company also failed to provide up to 300 employees with adequate respirators that could have kept worker exposure to hazardous substances at or below the allowable level, states OSHA.

Gopher Resource is a secondary lead smelter, recycling automotive batteries by separating the battery components to capture lead, acid and plastic, before processing those materials.

OSHA area director Danelle Jindra in Tampa, said: “This employer put their bottom line above the safety and well-being of their workers.

“Every worker has the right to a safe workplace, and they should never have to decide between their own health and earning a living. Continuing to put workers in harm’s way is unacceptable, and OSHA will continue to hold employers like Gopher Resource responsible.”

OSHA cited Envirofocus Technologies— operating as Gopher Resource— proposed penalties totalling $319,876.

OSHA also cited Gopher Resource for: 

  • Allowing cadmium, lead and inorganic arsenic exposure levels above the permissible exposure limit.
  • Not implementing adequate engineering and work practice controls to prevent lead and inorganic arsenic exposure levels above the permissible exposure limit.
  • Failing to provide an annual update of the written compliance program for cadmium, inorganic lead and arsenic.
  • Allowing workers to share aluminized jackets that were damaged and stored in the open, and exposed to lead.
  • Requiring workers to wear respirators that were not fit-tested annually.
  • Using shoveling, sweeping or brushing methods to remove lead accumulations.
  • Not identifying all hazards on entry permits.

OSHA also cited A&B Maintenance & Construction, a Tampa-based company that provides supplemental maintenance at the Gopher facility, for exposing workers to health hazards by failing to maintain a written respiratory protection program and allowing lead exposure in excess of the permissible exposure limit. 

A&B Maintenance & Construction faces $16,384 in penalties.

The companies have 15 business days from receipt of their citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Tampa facility

Gopher Resource acquired the Tampa facility in 2006 and since has kept an estimated 75+ million lead batteries out of landfills. 

Since the acquisition, Gopher has invested more than $230 million into the facility, of which $140 million was focused on protecting the health and safety of employees and environmental protection.

The 21-acre site has the capacity to recycle 50,000 automotive batteries per day (13 million annually) to produce recycled pure lead and numerous specialty alloys.

The company’s website says it invests 25% of its operating budget to health, safety and environmental stewardship.

Gopher statement

A Gopher statement to BEST read: “Gopher Resource is deeply committed to protecting our people, our community, and the environment. 

“We have spent most of this year working cooperatively with OSHA to review our entire Tampa operation and to identify areas where historical practices could be improved.  

“We have only just received OSHA’s report, and we are still reviewing it in detail, but as part of our continuous focus on protecting people and communities we have already implemented the majority of OSHA’s recommendations. Other recommendations that require further study have been given the highest priority.   

“We would like to thank our employees and management for their steadfast commitment to continuously improving safety and operations.  

“Although the OSHA investigation of our facility is now closed, we continue to work with OSHA regarding their determinations.  Notably, there are some elements of the report that we respectfully disagree with, including the item related to respiratory protection, which we believe is based on inaccurate data and interpretation.

“Moving forward, Gopher remains committed to continuous improvement. Since Gopher acquired the plant 15 years ago, our unwavering commitment to workplace safety has resulted in a steady and sustained decline in the average blood lead level among employees to half of what it was. 

“Employee lead levels are recognised by experts as a leading measure of health and safety and the effectiveness of efforts to protect employees - and we are dedicated to bringing them even lower.”

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US lithium-ion battery recycler promotes CTO to head of company

Wed, 09/15/2021 - 15:34 -- Paul Crompton
Ryan Melsert will become its new CEO

Lithium-ion battery recycling firm American Battery Metals Corporation has announced that its company chief technology officer (CTO) Ryan Melsert will become its new CEO. 

The appointment comes as the company prioritises technology development and commercialisation efforts, and aims to position itself for long-term growth.

Doug Cole is the outgoing CEO of the firm.

Melsert and Cole have been working closely over the past two years to set the direction of the company and to help it evolve, with Melsert leading the recruiting and hiring of company executives. 

Melsert said the company was in the process of reprioritising its resources to focus on the commercialisation of its in-house developed technologies within the lithium-ion battery recycling and primary battery metals fields.

Long-time founder-stage board members Cole, Douglas MacLellan, and William Hunter are also planning not to seek re-election at the annual board of directors meeting.

The board intends to assemble a search committee to qualify and nominate director candidates to be presented for shareholder vote during the annual meeting. 

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Arcimoto and Redivivus launch battery recycling partnership

Mon, 08/02/2021 - 11:03 -- Paul Crompton
Arcimoto electric vehicle

Electric vehicle maker Arcimoto has launched a battery recycling program with lithium-ion battery recycling company Redivivus.

Redivivus will provide a battery processing solution to Oregan, US, firm Arcimoto’s manufacturing plants, and service and sales centers, based on its hydrometallurgical and electrochemical battery recycling Process.

The materials will be transported to a recycling line designed by Redivivus, where it will use its Redi-Cycle process to convert the materials into secondary materials.

One of the final products is a nickel and cobalt metallic alloy.

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BASF’s cathode expansion accelerates with German lithium-ion recycling plant

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 14:44 -- Paul Crompton
BASF flags

Chemicals giant BASF is set to build a battery recycling prototype plant in Germany to extract key materials from end-of-life lithium-ion cells and production scrap.

The plant at BASF’s cathode active materials (CAM) plant site in Schwarzheide is scheduled to be commissioned by 2023.

The prototype plant will allow for the “development of operational procedures and optimisation” of technology to recover lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese from used batteries as well as off spec material from cell producers and battery material producers.

The recovered metals will be used to manufacturer cathode active materials.

Dr. Matthias Dohrn, senior vice president, precious and base metal services at BASF, said: “With this battery recycling, plus leading process technology for manufacturing of cathode active materials, we aim to ‘close the loop’ while reducing the CO2 footprint of our cathode active materials by up to 60% in total compared to industry standards.”

The plant’s location was announced in February.

Aggressive cathode expansion

In June, BASF is set to form a joint venture (JV) with Hunan Shanshan Energy to produce lithium-ion battery cathode active materials (CAM) and precursors (PCAM) in China.

German firm BASF will have a 51% share of the JV when it closes later this summer following the approval of the relevant authorities.

In May, materials firm Umicore and BASF entered into a non-exclusive patent cross-license agreement covering a range of lithium-ion cathode materials and their precursors.

 
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BASF’s cathode expansion accelerates with German lithium-ion recycling plant

Thu, 07/08/2021 - 10:21 -- Paul Crompton
BASF's planned recycling plant in Germany

Chemicals firm BASF is set to build a prototype battery recycling plant in Germany to develop a method of recovering key lithium-ion materials from end-of-life batteries.

The plant will be located at the site of its cathode active materials (CAM) plant in Schwarzheide, with commissioning planned for early 2023.

The prototype recycling plant will allow for the development of operational procedures and optimisation of technology to recover lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese as well as off-spec material from cell producers and battery material producers. 

The extracted metals will be used to produce new cathode active materials.

Dr. Matthias Dohrn, senior vice president, precious and base metal services at BASF, said: “With this investment in battery recycling, plus leading process technology for manufacturing of cathode active materials, we aim to ‘close the loop’ while reducing the CO2 footprint of our cathode active materials by up to 60% in total compared to industry standards.”

BASF’s investment supports the European Commission’s agenda towards a European battery production value chain and is part of the ‘Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI)’ approved by the European Commission in 2019, under the European Union State aid rules. 

The plant’s location was announced in February.

Aggressive cathode expansion

In June, BASF is set to form a joint venture with Hunan Shanshan Energy to produce lithium-ion battery cathode active materials (CAM) and precursors (PCAM) in China.

German firm BASF will have a 51% share of the JV when it closes later this summer following the approval of the relevant authorities.

In May, materials firm Umicore and BASF entered into a non-exclusive patent cross-license agreement covering a range of lithium-ion cathode materials and their precursors.

 

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Firms partner to collect and recycle EV lithium-ion batteries across the US

Tue, 06/29/2021 - 10:37 -- Paul Crompton
retriev EV lithium-ion batteries recycling plant in the  US

Retriev Technologies has solidified its position in the North American lithium-ion battery recycling market with two milestones this month.

Last week the firm announced its first volume shipment of recovered battery materials to Marubeni Corporation.

The shipment was made under the umbrella of their strategic partnership, which was formed in February to develop an business model for end-of-life Lithium-ion batteries.

The recycling program aims to take valuable metals recovered from used batteries to expand the circular business model for EV battery-to-battery closed loop recycling.

Earlier this month, the company teamed up with electronics recycler Hobi International to begin collecting and recycling large format EV batteries throughout North America.

The companies entered into a collaborative partnership to ensure lithium batteries used in EVs are collected and responsibly recycled to create value within the battery industry’s circular economy.

Rick Rose, vice president of Retriev Technologies’ Ohio Corporate Headquarters, said: “As more states adopt measures similar to California, which has implemented a ban on internal combustion engines sold in the state starting in 2030, the EV market will grow exponentially in the coming years. 

“The end-of-life management and recycling of these batteries is critical for environmental safety and sustainability, and it must be addressed now.” 

Last year, scientists at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in the US demonstrated a proof-of-principle electrochemical process for recycling lithium-ion batteries using material from Retriev.

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