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LG Chem’s lithium-ion batteries at centre of latest fire at 300MW ESS

Mon, 09/13/2021 - 15:10 -- paul Crompton

Preliminary assessment of a fault that caused Vistra’s flagship 300MW/1.2GWh energy storage system (ESS) to overheat and go offline has begun in the US state of California.

Phase I of the Texas, US, firm’s Moss Landing Energy Storage facility was forced out of service following an “overheating incident” that affected a number of battery modules around 8pm on 4 September.

The system is made up of more than 4,500 stacked battery racks or cabinets, each containing 22 individual battery modules manufactured by LG Energy Solutions.

Vistra said that it was taking a conservative approach and keeping the entire facility offline as it investigates the root cause of the incident in partnership with its engineering contractor Fluence, and battery manufacturer LG Energy Solution. 

California news outlet Kion 5/46 quoted North County Fire District fire chief Joel Mendoza as saying the battery racks had been "scorched" and wires "melted."

He was reported as saying: "We didn’t see any fire when we came in. What we saw was a lot of smoke. The battery modules are actually encased in plastic. So in the event of overheating, you’re gonna see a lot of smoke."

Safety systems detected the faulty modules were operating at a temperature above operational standards and triggered sprinkler systems targeted at the affected modules. 

The operational status of the assets of Phase II (100MW), which is located in a separate stand-alone building, remains operational. Phase II was completed last month and brought the facility's total capacity to 400MW/1.6GWh— the largest of its kind in the world.

Battery fire investigation

Teams from Vistra, LG Energy Solution, Fluence, and other external experts are in the early stages of the investigation into the root cause of the issue.

The teams expect that it will take “some time” to fully assess the extent of the damage before developing a plan to safely repair and return the battery system to operation. 

The North County Fire Protection District of Monterey County is assisting with the investigation.

A statement by Vistra on 5 September read: “The Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility experienced an overheating issue with a limited number of battery modules in its Phase I 300-megawatt/1200-megawatt hour system. 

“There are multiple layers of safety integrated into the battery facility and the risk mitigation and safety systems worked as designed, detecting these modules were operating at a temperature above operational standards and triggering targeted sprinkler systems aimed at the affected modules. 

“As a result, the overheating was controlled and contained without the need for outside assistance. However, consistent with Vistra’s incident response planning and out of an abundance of caution, the Moss Landing team did ask the local fire department, North County Fire Protection District of Monterey County, to respond to the site. 

“Importantly, there were no injuries to the facilities’ workers as a result of the incident and the situation is contained to the facility with no harm to the community.”

Vistra is uncertain on the timing of the return of the facility, pending an investigation and any needed repairs. 

The company will update the status of Phase I Moss Landing as it learns more. 

LC Chem battery woes

It has been an interesting year for LG Energy Solutions, the subsidiary of the Korean battery giant LG Chem.

Earlier this month, a billion dollar recall of GM’s electric vehicles was made after a torn anode tab and a folded separator were found on cells. LG packs the cells into the modules, then into a battery pack battery at LG Energy Solution Michigan facility in Holland, Michigan, US.

In August, LG Energy Solution extended its scheme to replace lithium-ion batteries used in its home energy storage systems (ESS) to include all geographical markets.

ESSs manufactured between April 2017 and September 2018 are being recalled due to overheating concerns.

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UK-US partnership to scale-up direct lithium-ion battery cathode recycling

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 15:44 -- paul Crompton

UK and US firms have partnered to improve the sustainability of lithium-ion battery manufacturing by using direct cathode recycling methods. 

UK firm Johnson Matthey and the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) will partner with US firm OnTo Technology on the project involving direct recycling of lithium-ion battery production scrap.

Johnson Matthey has entered into an agreement to scale up OnTo Technology OnTo’s patented process for the direct recycling of lithium-ion battery scrap in collaboration with UKBIC.

Part funding for the feasibility stage of the project is from the UK Government’s Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) in partnership with Innovate UK.

OnTo’s patented Cathode Healing process restores the coating material to be used in making new batteries. 

A Johnson Matthey spokesman told BEST: “The project is aimed at a demonstration unit that can be scaled-up directly to a commercial unit that can meet the need of cell manufacturers.

“The project is focused on cell manufacturing scrap rather than scrap batteries. The demonstration unit will take material from UKBIC’s cell production line and directly from cell manufacturers.

“The objectives of the project is to scale up OnTo’s patented direct cathode recycling technology, which so far has been developed at laboratory scale, to a scale at which the feasibility of a commercial recycling unit can be demonstrated. 

“A successful method of recycling cell scrap with make a significant overall contribution to the manufacturing efficiency of lithium-ion cell manufacturing, increasing the recycled content of new batteries.”

Matthew Dobson, UKBIC’s principal engineer, said: “The recycling of batteries is an important part of developing a sustainable UK value chain and aligns with our objective of enabling a route to Net Zero." 

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Sunlight investment to expand lead and lithium-ion battery production in Europe and US

Tue, 09/07/2021 - 08:47 -- paul Crompton
Sunlight lead-acid lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant

Battery maker Sunlight will invest an additional €50 million ($59 million) into its US and European plants to increase lead-acid and lithium-ion battery manufacturing.

The Greek firm will invest €30 million ($35.5 million) to increase production of motive power lead-acid flooded products at its plant in Xanthi, northeastern Greece, from 4GWh to 5.3GWh up to Q3 next year.

This investment will include the expansion of existing infrastructure with automated, state-of-the-art machinery in the battery plant. 

The remaining €20 million ($24 million) is being invested to expand its lithium-ion battery assembly plants in Verona, Italy, and North Carolina, US.

Those plants will install three automated assembly lines for lithium modules and complete lithium battery systems, as well as one assembly line for prototyping and R&D purposes.

This investment is part of the company’s goal to offer integrated lithium products for off-road mobility, industrial use, and energy storage applications. 

Production is anticipated to begin by Q3 next year and deliver 1.7GWh of manufacturing capacity a year, while additional space reserved with the potential to increase capacity up to 4GWh.

This latest investment brings Sunlight’s total committed CAPEX spend for 2021-2023 to €180 million ($213 million), with €150million ($170 million) committed to the expansion of lithium production. 

Sunlight’s CEO Lampros Bisalas said: "The investment is already under implementation, and we’re excited for the new, state-of-the art machinery to be installed and further expand our capabilities.

“We’re keen to meet both current and future demands in the off-road mobility and RES energy storage, by scaling up capacity and rendering our Xanthi industrial park a true gigafactory.”

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Sakuú announces pilot facility as it scales up solid-state lithium-ion battery ambition

Fri, 09/03/2021 - 15:25 -- paul Crompton

Construction of a US solid-state lithium-ion battery pilot line and learning center is being built by additive manufacturing company Sakuu Corporation.

The US firm’s (previously named KeraCel) pilot line will be able to produce up to 2.5MWh of solid-state batteries per year and serve as a customer learning center for its advanced additive manufacturing platform. 

The facility is due to be operational by end of 2021.

Sakuú is aiming to produce solid-state batteries that are up to 50% smaller and 30% lighter than lithium-ion batteries, although the firm didn’t give any figures to back up that promise.

The pilot line will test the viability of the battery manufacturing process and enable Sakuú to deliver sample products to its “early access strategic partners”.

The second phase is expected next year and will use an array of Sakuú AM Platforms to produce up to 1GWh of solid-state battery capacity per year.

Sakuú is working with Relevant Industrial and Honeywell Process Solutions to design and develop the facility by scaling-up the laboratory environment into a fully functioning pilot manufacturing plant.

Relevant and Honeywell will provide engineering, process design, systems integration, and process manufacturing expertise to efficiently build the factory.

Robert Bagheri CEO and founder of Sakuú, said: “This is an important milestone for us. Our technology development has progressed to the level where we have decided to move ahead with our plan to construct and operate a pilot facility. 

“This facility will enable us to provide our strategic customers and early access partners with solid-state batteries for their own development and testing."

New cell developed

Last month, Sakuu announced it has developed a 3Ah lithium-metal solid-state battery (SSB).

Sakuú has been developing its first generation battery technology alongside its additive manufacturing platform, and aims for commercial launch by the end of this year. 

The first-generation batteries comprise 30 sub-cells and a proprietary printed ceramic separator. 

The battery will be targeted to consumer, aerospace, mobility, and other applications.

Bagheri said: “Over the last year, we have improved our battery energy capacity by a factor of 100 and our volumetric energy efficiency over 12 times and are planning to begin volume production of the batteries in early 2022 to meet the needs of our strategic partners."

In June, the California-based firm won approval of three patents: a hybrid solid-state cell with a sealed anode structure; an additive manufacturing system; and an electrophotographic multi-material 3D printer. 

This latest patent is for a monolithic ceramic electrochemical cell housing an anode and cathode receptive space, alongside a separator between the two— allowing for higher charging rates without the risk to safety posed by lithium-ion batteries. 

This is in addition to two previous battery patents for an integrated cell stack battery and monolithic solid-state battery, which were granted back in 2020. 

The second patent for a three-dimensional AM system, allows for patterned single layers to be assembled into a three-dimensional active device onto an assembly plate. The patent includes a carrier substrate which allows for single layers to be built separately and then dispensed on a stack on the assembly plate. 

The final patent is an electrophotographic three-dimensional printer system that can be used to create a 3D part derived from a composite toner material. 

The new patent allows for the use of multiple engineering materials, such as ceramic, metal and polymer materials, which electrophotography was previously unable to employ.

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Battery Resourcers to build new US facilities as it drives forward US and European plans

Thu, 09/02/2021 - 11:22 -- paul Crompton

Battery Resourcers is set to build two facilities in the US to accelerate the growth of its lithium-ion battery recycling and manufacturing business model.

The new facilities in Massachusetts and Michigan mark a step in Battery Resourcers’ scaling up pilot operations before continued commercial expansion in North America and Europe.

A facility in Westborough, Massachusetts, will process black mass to cathode precursor material and purify the recovered graphite to a level higher than 99.9%. 

The company’s battery material research and development team will be relocated to Westborough to integrate laboratory development and increase manufacturing scaling efforts. 

The Novi, Michigan, facility will support the company’s goal of developing and commercialising battery materials, including the sintering and finishing of nickel manganese cobalt cathode. 

The Novi site also contains a state-of-the-art materials analytical laboratory, as well as laboratory-scale battery production and test capabilities, to evaluate the performance of its battery materials.  

The new pilot plants are in addition to Battery Resourcers’ operation in Worcester, Massachusetts.

As part of the expansion, the operation center in Worcester will be converted into a mechanical shredding operation, including disassembly, discharge and shredding operation for cells, modules and complete battery packs. 

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Tesla agrees to $1.5 million settlement over battery voltage reduction in its cars

Mon, 08/09/2021 - 16:16 -- paul Crompton

US electric vehicle maker Tesla is set to pay $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit regarding the voltage restriction of batteries amid a spate of fires in their Model S sedans.

The suit, filed in August 2019, alleged that Tesla reduced the maximum voltage to which battery packs in around 1,743 Model S vehicles could be charged.

The over-the-air software updates to battery management systems in May 2019 related to charging and thermal control following a number of incidents where batteries caused fires in their Model S vehicles.

Plaintiff David Rasmussen launched the claim after the software update reportedly reduced his Model S vehicle’s battery by 8kWh, decreased range and increased charging times.

Lawyers for the owners who sued said the "voltage limitation was temporary, with a 10% reduction lasting about 3 months, and a smaller 7% reduction lasting another 7 months before the corrective update was released in March 2020," reported news outlet Reuters.

However, Tesla was found to have fraudulently concealed information the cars would “experience a significant decrease in the total amount of range, and other performance issues”, according to the court paper.

The settlement is pending approval by federal district court of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. 

A hearing to finalise the proposed settlement is scheduled for 9 December which, if approved, would see the 1,743 class members paid $625 each. 

Tesla did not respond to BEST’s request for a comment.

Model S electric vehicle fires

The over-the-air software update followed a number of fires in Tesla’s Model S cars.

The fires included: a “single battery module” causing a Model S in Shanghai, China, to catch alight in April, 2019; a Model S fire in San Francisco, US, in May 2019; also in May 2019, a Model S caught alight in Hong Kong; in July 2019 a Model S caught alight in Germany.

To date, Tesla has failed to provide its customers with any further information regarding the cause of these fires and has failed to inform customers as to which vehicles are potentially at risk of catching fire, according to court papers.

Court filings say 1,552 of the affected Tesla Model S sedans have had their batteries’ voltage fully restored, and 57 received full battery replacements. 

A subsequent update restored about 3% of the battery voltage in the vehicles, and a third update released in March 2020 was designed to fully restore the batteries’ voltage over time as the vehicles are driven, the settlement documents said.

BEST has been reporting on Tesla fires as far back as 2013 when the company faced a costly recall after three fires in five weeks on its Model S called into question the safety of the battery. 

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Research collaboration aims to extend lead battery cycle life using lignosulfates

Wed, 08/04/2021 - 11:32 -- paul Crompton

A cohort of US battery companies will collaborate with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and The University of Toledo (UToledo) to improve lead-battery cycling efficiency. 

The new two-year research collaboration is focused on improving the performance of advanced lead batteries, which includes work to identify methods to extend their cycle life. 

The project will explore lignosulfonates use on a lead battery’s negative plates to maintain the optimum flow of energy from the battery. 

The research team will conduct an atomic level examination of organic materials (known as expanders) to extend the life of lead batteries by improving their cycling efficiency.

The project will be led by Argonne’s Material Science Division in collaboration with Dr. Cora Lind-Kovacs, professor in the UToledo Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. 

Joining Argonne and UToledo are: Crown Battery; Clarios; EnerSys; East Penn Manufacturing; and Ecobat. 

The aim is to develop longer life batteries to assist the US’ transition to an electric and decarbonised future as part of president Joe Biden’s February Executive Order for the US to assert global leadership with home-grown technology. 

Lind-Kovacs said: “We are excited to collaborate with Argonne National Laboratory and the American Battery Research Group to investigate the atomic level mechanism of how expander molecules interact with the different lead species present in batteries.

“This is a great opportunity to use our expertise in materials chemistry at UToledo to work closely with several companies to help address a relevant industrial problem.” 

This cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) marks the second major collaborative research project between the lead battery industry and Argonne. 

The first research program, identified several critical battery additives for intensive research, including the lignosulfonates under investigation here. 

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Toyocolor to supply CNT to and SK Innovations European plants

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 15:18 -- paul Crompton
Lioaccum series of conductive carbon nanotube (CNT) dispersions

Functional materials firm Toyocolor is set to supply carbon nanotubes to Korea’s lithium-ion battery maker SK Innovations’ plants in the US and Europe.

Toyocolor, the colorants and functional materials division of Japan’s Toyo Ink Group, will supply its Lioaccum series of conductive carbon nanotube (CNT) dispersions. 

Lioaccum dispersions are used as the conductive additive in lithium-ion cathodes to expand battery capacity that enables electric vehicles to increase driving distances and charge faster. 

In this instance, the CNT’s will be used in lithium-ion batteries for Volkswagen Group and the Ford Motor Company.

Toyocolor said in a statement that its researchers in Japan had achieved high conductivity levels by replacing carbon black in the battery cathode with a small amount of Lioaccum CNT dispersions as the conductive additive.

At present, Toyocolor is providing SK Innovation with Lioaccum dispersions produced at its plant in Georgia, US.

Supply to SK Innovation’s European plants is due to move to Toyo Ink Hungary, in Hungary, in the first quarter of next year. 

Toyo Ink SC Holdings, the parent company of the Toyo Ink Group, plans to invest around 10 billion yen ($9990 million) up to 2026, to strengthen its global battery dispersions production network. 

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BCI and CBI release report to guide the US’ lead battery development

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 15:12 -- paul Crompton

Two lead battery organisations have prepared a joint roadmap that identifies 13 key areas for the advancement of the next generation lead batteries.

Trade association Battery Council International (BCI) and research organisation Consortium for Battery Innovation’s (CBI) report positions lead batteries at the heart of the US’ decarbonisation goals.

The ‘Lead Battery Grand Challenge’ roadmap was authored in response to the calls from the US Department of Energy (DOE) for greater levels of advanced energy storage, including batteries.

The roadmap highlights the opportunities for the US lead battery industry, in particular how to secure future opportunities for research and funding as well as targets for increasing the performance of lead batteries. Read the full report here 

Those targets include: increasing cycle life by 1,000 (at 80% and 100% depth of discharge), round trip efficiency (82% to 88%), acquisition costs (from $135/kWh to $35) and operating costs ($0.09/kWh/cycle down to $0.025).

The industry’s goal is to innovate and improve lead battery performance for key markets, such as residential and commercial demand reduction and load response for solar generation.

Lead battery energy storage solutions have intrinsic safety measures, are highly sustainable, manufactured domestically and meet the technoeconomic needs of the US utility sector for decarbonisation and distribution of the US grid. 

Roger Miksad, executive vice president of BCI, said: “This roadmap identifies key research areas which offer opportunities for the next generation of advanced lead batteries to deliver significant performance gains and to play an even greater role in the diverse energy mix that will power the nation’s grid. 

“It’s a call to arms for lead battery manufacturers, DOE, and the national laboratories to partner on collaborative research that takes science from the laboratory to the marketplace.”

Dr. Matt Raiford, senior technical manager, CBI, an author of the roadmap said: “DOE’s renewed focus on energy storage R&D represents a unique opportunity for demonstrable gains in the U.S. battery industry. 

“A high-performing and sustainable energy storage solution is key, and this is possible through a collaboration between the US lead battery industry and the scientific excellence of the DOE.” 

The roadmap’s thirteen research work areas identified to aid DOE in meeting the challenge include: 

  1. Lead industry support 
  2. Lead Battery Science Research Program 
  3. Additive modelling 
  4. Bipolar innovation 
  5. Manufacturing 
  6. Technoeconomic analysis 
  7. Pilot manufacturing 
  8. Supply Chain issues 
  9. Logistics 
  10. Balance of plant optimisation 
  11. Energy storage system demonstration 
  12. Operational Issues 
  13. Recycling 

Energy grand challenge

The report follows the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issue of its Energy Storage Grand Challenge (ESGC) program last December to accelerate the development, commercialisation, and use of next-generation energy storage technologies in the US.

Last September, BCI lobbied the U.S. DOE to recognise the benefits of lead batteries and invest in the technology to the same degree it does lithium-ion.

BCI sent comments reiterating that lead-based batteries could meet the three objectives of its ESGC roadmap: innovate here; make here; and deploy everywhere.

In February, president Biden issued an executive order to ensure resilient and diverse supply chains that put the spotlight on the need for the US to assert global leadership with home-grown technology to assist in the transition to an electric and low carbon future. 

The ESGC roadmap includes the goal of developing and domestically manufacturing energy storage technologies that can meet all US market demands by 2030.

Its six use cases identify energy storage applications, benefits, and functional requirements for 2030 and beyond.

The ESGC has identified cost and performance targets, which include:

  • $0.05/kWh levelised cost of storage for long-duration stationary applications, a 90% reduction from 2020 baseline costs by 2030. Achieving this levelised cost target would facilitate commercial viability for storage across a wide range of uses including: meeting load during periods of peak demand, grid preparation for fast charging of electric vehicles and applications to ensure reliability of critical services.
  • Other emerging applications for stationary storage include serving remote communities, increasing facility flexibility, increasing the resilience of interdependent networks, and facilitating the transformation of the power system.
  • $80/kWh manufactured cost for a battery pack by 2030 for a 300-mile range electric vehicle, a 44% reduction from the current cost of $143 per rated kWh. Achieving this cost target would lead to cost competitive electric vehicles and could benefit the production, performance, and safety of batteries for stationary applications. 

You can read the full ESGC report here

The U.S. lead battery industry has an annual economic impact of $26.3 billion across 38 states.

Lead batteries provide 60% of the global rechargeable energy storage market, and have significant potential for even better performance to serve increasingly demanding requirements for vehicle electrification and the integration of renewable power to the electric grid. 

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“Life threatening” violations found at lead recycler Gopher Resources US plant

Wed, 07/14/2021 - 08:26 -- paul Crompton
Gopher Resources recycling plant in Tampa Florida, US

Lead recycling firm Gopher Resources was in breach of 14 violations of the air pollution permits and regulations at its Tampa, US, plant.

Florida regulator the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) confirmed the breaches following its investigation of violations first reported by the Tampa Bay Times newspaper.

The violations include “life threatening” levels of SO2 and CO in employee workspaces, removal of exhaust hoods designed to capture noxious fumes, hazardous-liquid leaks, lead-laced dust blanketing the plant floor.

The violation covered poor operation, maintenance and design of the fugitive capture and ventilation systems; poor operation and maintenances of the Process and Hygiene Baghouse Shaker Systems; violations associated with SO2 emissions from the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). 

For a list of the Tampa Bay Times allegations click here.

The EPC launched its inquiry into Gopher Resource in April after the Times highlighted dangerous conditions inside the plant in March.

The release of the report is a first step that could result in fines or sanctions. 

In June, a former worker at the site filed a law suit against Gopher Resources, reported the Times.

Gopher responds to accusations

Gopher Resources told BEST: "Gopher has consistently stated that it will cooperate with all local, state, and federal agencies that regulate its operations in its ongoing effort to improve the overall safety and environmental performance of its plant. As the EPC report acknowledges, well before EPC began its inspection, Gopher took concrete actions to address the historical claims that the EPC report attempts to validate.  

"Although the EPC report identifies a number of conditions that it labels as "potential” air violations, the EPC report confirms that Gopher has been and remains in compliance with applicable Clean Air Act emission limitations. In fact, Gopher’s lead emissions are very low— more than 50% below the emission limits set by EPA that we are required to meet. Gopher’s positive performance with respect to emissions reflects the substantial and continuing investment Gopher has made in plant improvements.  

"Gopher has a long-standing, strong, working relationship with EPC and continues to welcome its input on changes and improvements that would make Gopher’s performance even better. EPC has conducted more than 100 inspections of the Gopher facility, and we were pleased to work with EPC on this latest one. Gopher is reviewing EPC's detailed report and will continue to work with EPC to implement any needed changes in our systems, processes and results.  

'With respect to workplace conditions, we continue to cooperate with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and we look forward to any recommendations they may make to help enhance our current efforts to protect our employees. We remain confident in our workplace safety program, which has led to a sustained and consistent decrease in average blood lead levels since 2006."

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