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Bench tests show First Cobalt can recover key lithium-ion battery materials from black mass

Fri, 08/13/2021 - 16:00 -- Paul Crompton
first cobalt refinery plant

First Cobalt Corp has extracted key lithium-ion materials from black mass collected from recycled batteries.

The Canadian firm’s bench-scale testing demonstrated its technology can extract lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper, manganese and graphite from black mass. 

The company is now working to leverage the existing operating permits, flowsheet and equipment at its Canadian hydrometallurgical refinery for the large-scale recycling of battery materials for reuse in the electric vehicle battery supply chain.

Metallurgical test work was conducted by SGS Labs on black mass material provided by upstream battery recyclers in the US and Europe. 

First Cobalt has hired an engineering firm to study the leaching of black mass within its existing refinery to produce nickel, cobalt, copper and manganese products using the existing flowsheet, and to produce lithium and graphite products with recommended modifications.

Completion of the engineering study is expected in Q4. 

If the study is successful, the firm intends to process black mass at the Canadian refinery facility on a pilot basis.

First Cobalt president and CEO, Trent Mell, said: ”There are many producers of black mass in the western world but few environmentally friendly options to then refine the product into battery grade material given the capital expenditure required and the permitting timeline associated with building a hydrometallurgical facility such as ours. 

“We intend to capitalise on this first-mover advantage and leverage our position as an ultra-low carbon operation.”

Under a Phase 1 expansion, the company aims to refine third-party cobalt hydroxide into a high purity, battery grade cobalt sulfate suitable for the electric vehicle market. 

Around 80% of cobalt sulfate is made in China and there is no production in North America. 

Longer term, the company’s aims to establish a battery park that would include large-scale production of nickel sulfate and the co-location of a battery precursor manufacturer.

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US lithium-ion battery recycler ABTC names new COO

Thu, 08/12/2021 - 17:20 -- Paul Crompton
Andrés Meza ABC new chief operating officer

American-owned lithium-ion battery recycler American Battery Metals Corporation has named Andrés Meza as its new chief operating officer.

Meza (pictured) will lead the firm’s efforts to grow and move through the construction, commissioning and operations of its first lithium-ion battery recycling facility in Nevada, US.

The company chose Meza because of his “direct hands-on experience” with the operations of manufacturing facilities and high-growth start-ups.

The company is rebranding itself as American Battery Technology Company (ABTC).

ABTC CTO, Ryan Melsert, said: "Andrés has the ground level foundational understanding of fundamentals that comes from being a hands-on process engineer at a chemical plant, while having the field expertise from commissioning and optimising high-volume semiconductor manufacturing facilities.

“He also has the operational leadership experiences from working at premier management consultancy and private equity firms, which together provide the exact set of skills that is needed to support the next stage of our growth and to complement our current leadership team."

Read more about ABTC in the Spring edition of BEST magazine here

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Kore Power choses site for its US-owned lithium-ion gigafactory

Tue, 08/10/2021 - 16:07 -- Paul Crompton

Lithium-ion battery start-up Kore Power has confirmed that its gigafactory will be built in Arizona, US.

The one million square foot manufacturing facility in Maricopa County will support up to 12GWh of battery cell production for electric vehicles and power grid applications.

The US company, founded in 2018, plans to start construction of the facility, dubbed KOREPlex, by the end of the year with the goal of beginning production in Q2 2023.

Arizona governor Doug Ducey said the plant would “position Arizona as an anchor in the global battery manufacturing supply chain”. 

Kore’s new plant will add to its annual production capacity of 2GWh that is in the process of scaling up to 6GWh. 

KOREPlex will operate with net-zero carbon emissions through strategic partnerships and solar-plus- and storage co-generation.

Lindsay Gorrill, Kore Power CEO, said: “We needed a location for our factory that had a track record of supporting energy storage, a growing clean transportation sector, and a workforce that could deliver American-made battery technology that the supply chain so desperately needs. Arizona hit a home run.”

The decision comes just under two years after Kore first announced it would build a gigafactory in the US.

BEST reported in February how Idaho-headquartered Kore had narrowed the site for its 12GWh plant down to either Arizona, Florida or Texas

Kore said it picked the Arizona site as it offered proximity to complimentary industries such as e-mobility, solar, semiconductor, and utilities, workforce and logistics capacity, and a pro-business tax and regulatory environment.

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Tesla’s lithium-ion megapack causes three-day fire during test at Australian 300MW ESS

Mon, 08/09/2021 - 16:25 -- Paul Crompton

A fire that spread across two Tesla lithium-ion battery packs at Neoen’s 300MW/450MWh energy storage system (ESS) in Australia took three days to extinguish.

French firm Neoen, which owns and operates the Victorian Big Battery project, said a fire occurred within one of the Tesla megapacks and spread to another during initial testing of the ESS on 30 July.

The system was disconnected from the grid and there was “no impact to the electricity supply", said Neoen managing director Louis de Sambucy in a statement.

Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) crews wore breathing apparatus as they worked to contain the fire within the 13 tonne lithium-ion battery— which is housed in a shipping container—and stop it spreading to nearby batteries.

A FRV HAZMAT appliance conducted atmospheric monitoring with a Scientific Officer in support. 

A Neoen statement read: “Investigation preparations are underway and physical inspections will commence once the CFA [Victorian County Fire Authority] have completed their procedures.

“Testing will resume only once Neoen can be ensured that all security conditions are met.”

The Victorian Country Fire Authority, Energy Safe Victoria and WorkSafe Victoria are set to work with Neoen and Tesla on a “full and comprehensive” investigation of the fire.

The FRV statement did not give the cause of the fire.

The project to modernise the grid and unlock capacity within the existing Victorian electricity network will be delivered by Neoen, Tesla, and network partner AusNet Services.

The project is due to start operating this December.

Tesla’s 3MW megapacks are pre-assembled and pre-tested in one enclosure — including battery modules, bi-directional inverters, a thermal management system, an AC main breaker and controls.

Tesla had not replied to BEST’s questions at the time of publication.

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LGES signs 45mt off-take deal to secure lithium-ion battery supply from Vulcan

Thu, 08/05/2021 - 11:23 -- Paul Crompton
lithium hydroxide

Battery maker LG Energy Solution, a subsidiary of LG Chem, has signed a lithium-ion battery materials off-take deal with Vulcan Energy.

The Australian firm will supply up to 45 metric tonnes of lithium hydroxide over the five-year term of the deal.

Pricing will be based on market prices for lithium hydroxide.

The five-year agreement could be extended by a further five years, with the start of commercial delivery set for 2025.

LG will purchase 5,000 metric tonnes of battery grade lithium hydroxide the first year, ramping up to 10,000 metric tonnes per year during the subsequent years of the deal.

Vulcan said conditions precedent to the start of commercial delivery include execution of a definitive formal offtake agreement on materially the same terms by the end of November 2021, successful start of commercial operation and full product qualification.

Vulcan managing director, Dr. Francis Wedin, said: “This is the first binding lithium off-take term sheet for the Zero Carbon Lithium™ Project, so it is fitting that it is with the largest EV battery producer in the world. LGES’s operations are of course global, but it is already producing batteries in Europe. 

“The agreement is in line with our strategy to work with Tier One battery and automotive companies in the European market.”

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Blackstone Resources gets nod to scale up 3D printed lithium-ion battery plant

Wed, 08/04/2021 - 11:45 -- Paul Crompton
Blackstone Resources  lithium-ion battery plant mock image

Blackstone Resources has received an official operating-permit to begin production of 3D printed lithium-ion battery-cells in Germany.

The Switzerland firm’s German subsidiary, Blackstone Technology, received approval from the authorities of the city of Döbeln Saxony, Germany.

Blackstone Technology is building manufacturing facilities for the production of 3D printed battery-cells in Döbeln.

The firm aims to begin production this September following the installation of the plant’s machineries and equipment.

The short-term production will be pouch-cells using Blackstone’s Thick Layer Technology. 

Blackstone has applied for Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy funding from the Sächsische Aufbaubank for the construction of the serial-plants in Döbeln.

The funding comes under the ‘Joint Task Improvement of the regional economic structure’ (GRW) scheme. 

The GRW has as its central funding priority the support of investments in the commercial economy. 

The Sächsische Aufbaubank today handed over the decision for a subsidy for the investment expenditure to Blackstone. 

New finance officer

Earlier this month, Blackstone announced the appointment of Christoph von Aesch as its chief financial officer.

His primary responsibilities are to support the ambitious growth initiatives Blackstone plans to undertake, including the management of the group's capital structure and establishing “solid banking relationships, strengthening the finance organisation, leading mergers, and acquisition projects as well as compliance activities”.

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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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Public-private partnership to plug Europe’s 800,000 person battery skills gap

Mon, 07/19/2021 - 14:40 -- Paul Crompton
workers at a battery factory

A public-private partnership aims to fill the European battery industry skills gap by training 150,000 workers to aid the transition to electric vehicles.

A memorandum of understanding between EIT InnoEnergy and France has paved the way to launching the EBA250 Academy, which aims to reskill and upskill specialised engineers, technicians and researchers.

EIT InnoEnergy, coordinating the industrial work under the European Battery Alliance (EBA), will spearhead an education-sharing platform.

EIT InnoEnergy plans to rollout its training programme in France and throughout Europe.

The industry-expert designed courses will cover a range of topics from electromobility, residential storage and grid storage, to recycling and data science.

The modules will be delivered by local training organisations online, although some may require physical attendance at local training facilities.

Any engineer or executive working in energy can apply.

The public-private partnership will address the emerging skills gap that requires around 800,000 qualified workers to enter the European battery industry by 2025. 

This includes the lack of transferrable digital skills needed to support the digitalisation of the entire value chain, from factory automation with industry 4.0 to AI use. 

Reskilling the workforce is essential in ensuring Europe meets its Green Deal targets by safeguarding sufficient battery manufacturing capacity to support the electrification of transport and decarbonisation of energy.

In 2017, the European Commission launched the European Battery Alliance.

Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič, in charge of the European Battery Allianc, said: “The new battery industry requires a new set of skills. Reskilling and upskilling programmes, such as the EBA250 Academy, will therefore help match skills with labour market needs as well as reinforce the social dimension of Europe’s recovery.”

Along with France, EIT InnoEnergy is already implementing the EBA250 Academy in Spain and plans to roll out the programme across Europe during 2021. 

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Japanese mining firm eyes 10,000 t/m lithium-ion cathode material output

Fri, 07/16/2021 - 09:40 -- Paul Crompton
Sumitomo Metal Mininglogo

Metals firm Sumitomo Metal Mining (SMM) is set to expand its production capacity of lithium-ion cathode materials for electric vehicle batteries. 

Plans include establishing a new plant in the Besshi area (Niihama City, Ehime Prefecture) and expanding production capacity at its Harima Refinery (Harima-cho, Kako-gun, Hyogo Prefecture), both in Japan.

The production capacity of cathode material is planned to be 2,000t/month.

The new plant for nickel-based cathode materials will be opposite SMM’s existing cathode material plant.

Overall capital expenditures for both sites will include: 40 billion yen for the new plant and seven billion yen for the Harima Refinery. 

Construction work is due to be completed in 2025. 

SMM said the production processes will consist of state-of-the-art equipment so the cathode materials can be produced from the start of operation. 

In its 2018 three-year business plan, SMM set a goal of reaching a production capacity of 10,000t/month of cathode material by the end of the 2024. 

This project is adopted by the country’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry as a “Program for Promoting Investment in Japan to Strengthen Supply Chains.” 

SMM will use this grant appropriately in our business to promote the development of Japanese industries. 

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Pilot plant pushes NEO closer to lithium-ion silicon anode material commercialisation

Fri, 07/16/2021 - 09:23 -- Paul Crompton
me-metals schematic of silicon process

Canadian lithium-ion battery material firm NEO Battery Materials is on the verge of developing a first prototype of its silicon anode material.

NEO is in the scale-up phase of commercialisation following the successful integration of its silicon (Si) technology in commercial graphite anodes.

In phase one, NEO will provide graphite/Si mixture anode materials with different levels of Si content for controllable anode specific capacity. 

NEO reports it has achieved ~500 mAh/g, at a 70% capacity enhancement.

Spencer Huh, president and CEO of NEO, said: “The development of our prototype is part of our research to increase the specific capacity of our high silicon content anodes with graphite, and we are also onto a new strategic move into integrating NEO’s silicon with solid-state electrolytes. 

“We are in discussion with parties in the industry to explore and discover potential synergies and mutual benefit for NEO’s silicon anode technology.”

The firm has also announced the initiation of a pilot plant project where it intends to use in-house resources to design and test equipment that will use its single-step Si nanocoating process.

Sung Rock Hwang, chief operating officer and senior vice president of NEO, said the goal of the project was to establish a basic pilot-scale coating process design and to check the feasibility of NEO’s nanocoating technology for metallurgical-grade silicon.

He added: “Moreover, we are further focusing on a cost-effective separation method since it will capture the largest portion of energy consumption during our nanocoating pilot process. 

“The pilot plant project aims to prove the capacity of the Company to produce various sized Si materials ranging from ~50 nanometers to several micron-sized Si materials that are strategically important to conventional liquid-based Li-ion batteries and next generation all-solid-state batteries (ASSBs).”

The company’s directors, scientific advisors, and engineers are in the process of working on the conceptual design of the pilot plant, which marks the first step towards realising wide-scale production. 

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