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Battery separator firm Entek build new facility as it continues expansion plans

Wed, 10/13/2021 - 15:45 -- Paul Crompton

Entek Manufacturing has opened a new US manufacturing and engineering facility as part of the lead-acid and lithium-ion separator firm’s expansion.

The 98,000 square foot building in Henderson, Nevada, will be home to the wear parts production, fabrication and assembly, and engineering sectors of the business.

The expansion is to “better meet the needs of customers’ growing businesses”.

Kimberly Medford, the company’s president, said Entek was investing more than $10 million in new equipment for the Nevada facility and would begin interviewing and hiring new staff immediately.  

Entek chose Nevada for the new facility because it is a growing area of the country with a strong labour market.

Medford said: “We used an outside firm to do a multi-city survey, and the greater Las Vegas metro area came out first when it came to the availability of skilled labour such as machinists and engineers.

“It’s a good location for us, and not far from our headquarters in Oregon.” 

Last month, Entek International completed the acquisition of the majority stake of Japanese Nippon Sheet Glass’ (NSG) lead-acid battery separator business.

Read more about the deal and Entek’s expansion goals in the latest edition of BEST HERE

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Polypore and SEMCORP establish JV in China for dry-process lithium-ion battery separators

Fri, 10/01/2021 - 11:02 -- Paul Crompton

A joint venture to produce up to 1 billion m2/year of dry-process lithium-ion battery separators in China by 2028 has been established by a joint Japanese and Chinese partnership.

The joint venture (JV) was established by Polypore International (Polypore)—  A wholly owned subsidiary of Japan’s Asahi Kasei— and China’s Shanghai Energy New Materials Technology (SEMCORP) 

Production by the JV is scheduled to start next year with a capacity of 100 million m2/year, with plans to raise capacity to 1 billion m2/year by around 2028 in line with demand growth. 

The joint venture will manufacture and sell dry-process separator in China for energy storage systems (ESS) and electric vehicle (EV) batteries. 

The technology and intellectual property related to dry-process polypropylene (PP) separator will be based on a license from Polypore’s subsidiary Celgard.

The JV will leverage Celgard’s technology in combination with SEMCORP’s production process control and cost control capabilities in China. 

The agreement for the establishment of the joint venture was reached in January 2021, but only just confirmed.

Celgard president Lie Shi said that by joining each company’s specialisms, the joint venture would provide a wide range of solutions to customers and stimulate further development of the LIB industry overall.

SEMCORP is China’s leading manufacturer of wet-process LIB separator, with six manufacturing sites in China having a total production capacity of 3.5 billion m2/year. 

SEMCORP chairman and CEO Paul Xiaoming Lee said: “This joint venture will let us capture a huge opportunity in the ESS market with dry-process separator. 

“By combining Celgard’s highest-level technology and know-how with SEMCORP’s rich operational experience in China, track record of mass-producing high-quality separator, and cost-competitiveness, this joint venture with Polypore will be a revolutionary supplier of dry-process separator.” 

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Li-Cycle ups US lithium-ion battery recycling capacity to meet growing demand

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 13:46 -- Paul Crompton

Canadian firm Li-Cycle has confirmed it will build a fourth commercial lithium-ion battery recycling facility in North America.

The plant— called a spoke by the firm— in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, will provide an initial processing capacity increase of up to 5,000 tonnes of manufacturing scrap and end-of-life batteries per year.

The Tuscaloosa site is also being developed to accommodate a future, second 5,000 tonne processing line, which would double capacity at the site.

The Alabama Spoke is due to start operations by mid-2022.

Spoke 4 will initially bring Li-cycle’s North American recycling capacity to 25,000 tonnes per year, and adds to the firm’s facilities in Ontario, Canada, New York, and a plant in Arizona, US, that is in advanced stage of construction.

The Arizona, Spoke 3, facility will process 10,000 tonnes of batteries per year when complete, effectively doubling the firm’s total recycling capacity in North America.

Tim Johnston, co-founder, and executive chairman of Li-Cycle, said: "Originally, we had planned on rolling out three commercial Spoke facilities in North America over the next five years, with a total recycling capacity of 20,000 tonnes per year. 

“However, demand for lithium-ion battery recycling has continued to outperform our forecasts and we are now forecasting total recycling capacity of 30,000 tonnes per year. 

“This Alabama facility is essential in filling a recycling gap in the southeastern United States. Like our Arizona Spoke, we expect the new facility to have the capability to process entire vehicle battery packs, without dismantling.”

Univar Solutions will be an anchor battery feed supply customer for the new facility, following on Li-Cycle’s previously announced on-site partnership with Univar Solutions to provide waste management solutions for electric vehicle and lithium-ion battery manufacturing.

Mercedes-Benz, US International (MBUSI) is working with Univar Solutions on end-of-life solutions for lithium-ion batteries.

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Birla Carbon enters the storage market with carbon black for lithium-ion and lead batteries

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 13:21 -- Paul Crompton

Carbon black manufacturer Birla Carbon has announced its entry into the energy storage systems market with a portfolio of conductive carbons for the lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries.

The portfolio of conductive carbons is designed to enable customisation in formulation and performance in a variety of segments, including automotive, telecoms, motive power, energy storage systems, and e-bikes.

Birla says its Conductex e product portfolio will help increase charge acceptance, cold cranking power, cycle life, gassing and water loss and disperibility in lead batteries.

The firm sees the ideal applications in start-stop micro-hybrid EFB or VRLA applications, SLI and enhanced flooded batteries, e-bikes, energy storage systems and deep cycle operations in e-bikes.

The products leverage the firm’s Ultra process to ensure purity and conductivity, enabling increased charge acceptance, particularly under partial state-of-charge operation.

Birla says its engineered conductive carbon additives can unlock “5-15% energy savings” in lead batteries. 

Dr. Ann Schoeb (pictured), chief R&D officer and business head, Energy Systems, Birla Carbon, said: “As we deepen our focus on innovation and an innovation-driven culture, Birla Carbon has achieved remarkable success in enhancing the contribution of carbons to advanced battery applications.” 

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SK Innovations to invest $1B in new China plant to meet forecast demand of lithium-ion batteries

Fri, 09/17/2021 - 15:17 -- Paul Crompton

South Korea's SK Innovation is set to invest 1.2 trillion won ($1 billion) in a new battery factory in China, as it looks to ramp up lithium-ion battery production to 200GWh in the next four years.

Detailed plans for the new factory were not revealed, but in July the firm said it was to up production to 200GWh from a previously announced goal of 125GWh. 

The company’s production capacity is 40GWh.

The South Korean battery maker supplies electric vehicle (EV) batteries to Ford Motor, Volkswagen and Hyundai Motor among others, and has battery production sites in the US, Hungary, China and South Korea.

In July, SK announced it would spinoff its battery division to allow it to concentrate on meeting demand for batteries as global EV sales are set to increase from last year’s 2.5 million, according to IHS Markit.

SK Innovation CEO Kim Jun said in July: “We haven't decided how to split the battery business ... it takes quite a lot of resources to further grow our growing battery business, so we are considering the spinoff as one of the ways to secure resources.”

The South Korean battery maker told news outlet Reuters that it had more than 130 trillion won ($115 billion) worth of battery orders, which is more than 1TWh worth of batteries, enough to power around 14 million electric vehicles.

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Janus graphene opens doors for sodium-ion batteries to usurp lithium-ion

Thu, 09/16/2021 - 15:53 -- Paul Crompton

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have pushed the performance of electrode material for sodium batteries so it matches lithium-ion batteries.

Using a novel graphene, the team at the Swedish institute reported the specific capacity for sodium ions was 332 milliampere-hours-per-gram— almost ten times that of the capacity of sodium intercalation in standard graphite.

The article “Real-time imaging of Na+ reversible intercalation in “Janus” graphene stacks for battery applications” was published in the journal Science Advances. 

Sodium ions are larger than lithium ions and interact differently, which means they cannot be efficiently stored in the graphite structure— unlike lithium-ion cells where the graphite anode allows better ion intercalation.

Chalmers’ research uses Janus graphene (named after the two-faced ancient Roman God Janus) due to its asymmetric chemical functionalisation on opposite faces of the graphene.

The upper face of each Janus graphene sheet has a molecule that acts as both spacer and active interaction site for the sodium ions. 

Each molecule, in between two stacked graphene sheets, is connected by a covalent bond to the lower graphene sheet and interacts through electrostatic interactions with the upper graphene sheet. 

The graphene layers also have uniform pore size, controllable functionalisation density, and few edges.

Jinhua Sun, from the Department of Industrial and Materials Science at Chalmers and first author of the scientific paper, said by adding the molecule spacer  when the layers were stacked together, the molecule creates a larger space between graphene sheets and provides an interaction point— which leads to a significantly higher capacity.

Vincenzo Palermo, affiliated professor at the Department of Industrial and Materials Science at Chalmers, said: “Our Janus material is still far from industrial applications, but the new results show that we can engineer the ultrathin graphene sheets— and the tiny space in between them— for high-capacity energy storage.”

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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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Lithium-ion battery recycler secures Japanese patent

Wed, 09/15/2021 - 15:22 -- Paul Crompton

Critical minerals company American Manganese (AMY) has secured a Japanese patent for its closed-loop lithium-ion battery recycling process.

The company’s RecycLiCo process was issued Patent No. 6906060 by the Japanese Patent Office.

The Japanese patent joins already issued patents in the US and South Korea (Patent No. 10-2246670). The Company has also filed National Phase Patent Applications for China, Europe, Australia, India, and Canada.

The patent provides coverage for AMY’s closed-loop method for achieving up to 100% extraction of cobalt, nickel, manganese, aluminium, and lithium from the treatment of cathode chemistries such as lithium-cobalt oxide (LCO), lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt oxide (NMC), and lithium-nickel-cobalt-aluminium oxide (NCA). 

Compared to traditional hydrometallurgical recycling processes, the company says its process offers advantages such as faster reaction rates, lower consumption of acids, improved water balance, and higher leaching efficiency.

Larry Reaugh, president and CEO of American Manganese, said: “As we move towards our goal of commercialisation, we are reminded by the foundation of patents that supported our growth in battery recycling and we are honoured to be issued another patent by a country that is one of the world leaders in battery innovation.

“Innovation is at the core of our company and as a pioneer in battery recycling we continue to monitor new lithium-ion battery technologies and opportunities.”

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Companies chosen to test lithium extraction methods in Bolivia

Tue, 09/14/2021 - 15:44 -- Paul Crompton

Nine companies have been selected to conduct pilot lithium extraction projects by the Bolivian government as the country looks to develop large-scale production of the key lithium-ion battery material.

The unnamed firms were chosen following an international call for proposals to develop deposits in the salt flats of Uyuni, Coipasa and Pastos Grandes. 

State-owned lithium company Yacimientos de Litios Bolivianos (YLB) was founded in 2017 to oversee the development of the country’s lithium industry.

YLB will evaluate the bidders to determine which extraction technology is the most suitable for the Bolivian resources. 

The latest projects are expected to use Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) methods in the Salar de Uyuni salt flat, which has an estimated lithium resource of 21 million tonnes (mn/t).

DLE extracts lithium directly from brine water, without having to evaporate the brines first, which has environmental concerns.

Bolivia hopes the technology will allow it to eventually produce cathodes, lithium carbonate and lithium batteries.

Bolivia has the world's largest lithium resource, when compared with resources of 19.3 mn/t in Argentina; 9.6mn/t in Chile; 6.4mn/t in Australia; and 5.1mn/t in China, according to the US Geological Survey.

Although the firms remain unnamed, Russia’s state owned Rosatom State Atomiс Energy Corporation (ROSTOM) signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Ministry of Energies of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to cooperate in developing the lithium industry through industrial projects and research.

In 2019, the Bolivian government awarded lithium production contracts to German company ACI Systems and China's Xinjiang TBEA, but they were stalled amid local opposition and were put on hold by November 2019.

Lithium extraction methods

Bolivia received $11.6 million from lithium production in the first six months of the year, according to YLB.

Around 6,000 tons of lithium carbonate and potassium chloride was produced and sold during the first half of the year and the goal is to “double” that by the end of the year, said Marcelo Gonzales, executive president of YLB, in July

YLB has been running a pilot operation, producing several hundred tonnes of lithium carbonate per year. 

The company told media outlet Argus Media: "There are five to six types of Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technology that are being developed; each company employs different technology, which must be adapted to the type of raw material that our salt flats have. The objective is to identify what type of technology is best suited to the recovery of Bolivian lithium." 

The Bolivian government is looking to develop a vertically integrated supply chain within Bolivia under local ownership, rather than having international companies exporting raw materials. 

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Chinese battery manufacturing giant CATL joins EU battery association Eurobat

Tue, 09/14/2021 - 15:39 -- Paul Crompton
Chinese battery manufacturing giant CATL cells

China lithium-ion battery giant Contemporary Amperex Technology Limited (CATL) has joined Eurobat— the association for European automotive and industrial battery manufacturers.

Eurobat covers all battery technologies, and has more than 50 members working with policy-makers, industry stakeholders, and non-governmental organisations to highlight the role batteries play for decarbonised mobility and energy systems.

Headquartered in Ningde, China, CATL had more than 5,000 staff engaged in R&D at of the end of 2020 and is in the process of developing its first European production base in Arnstadt, Germany. 

Matthias Zentgraf, CATL EU-Region co-president, said: “With the European Commissions’ vision for a climate-neutral EU by 2050, we are proud to bring our EV battery technologies and manufacturing to Europe, contributing to a more sustainable Europe powered by E-mobility. 

“Joining Eurobat will bring more exposure to conversations with the local automotive ecosystem and regulatory bodies, facilitate CATL to better integrate with local automotive industry and introduce more advanced solutions and services in the region.” 

Eurobat executive-director Rene Schroeder said: “Europe’s battery industry is currently at a pivotal moment.

“Investments into Europe’s automotive and industrial battery industry are needed if we want Europe to reach its decarbonisation ambition, as recently announced in the European Commission’s Fit for 55 package. 

“At the same time, policy-makers and stakeholders are in the process of shaping the future policy framework for batteries, notably through the new Batteries Regulation.”

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