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Æsir set to build nickel-zinc gigafactory to serve back-up power markets

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 15:22 -- paul Crompton

Battery manufacturer Æsir Technologies is set to build its nickel-zinc gigafactory in South Dakota, US, to service the backup power markets. 

The Rapid City plant’s planned two billion watt hours of production capacity will serve the data center and 5G network back-up power markets.

Phase 1 of the $250 million investment includes the state of South Dakota providing debt support for the building and equipment with funding up to $1 million in workforce development. 

Randy Moore, Æsir’s CEO, said they chose South Dakota because the economic development package put forward by the state was significantly superior to the other 20 locations being considered.

He said: “Incentives offered by many other locations consisted of tax abatements of taxes that don’t exist in South Dakota. 

“Here, the incentives provided true leverage to make our financial plan come together.” 

Æsir said that “most” of the equipment used in the manufacturing process will come from Wirtz Manufacturing in Michigan, US.

The firm plans to directly source its nickel laterites from the Philippines and domestically convert it to nickel hydroxide- the main ingredient for its cathode. 

The data center market has traditionally used lead-acid batteries, but has been turning more and more to lithium-ion.

Bob Galyen, a member of Æsir’s technical advisory board and former CTO of CATL, said: “Of all the possible battery chemistries to be applied in a data center or 5G solution, nickel zinc is probably the best suited due to its energy density, safety attributes, and broad operating temperature range.”

The firm's Joplin facility works with the US Navy and Air Force to develop nickel zinc technology for Virginia Class Submarines and the Minuteman III ICBM, respectively. 

Æsir’s batteries are produced under non-exclusive license to use ZAF Energy Systems’ intellectual property. 

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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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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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Ford partners with Korea to boost US lithium-ion battery production

Thu, 10/07/2021 - 10:20 -- paul Crompton

Ford Motor Company and SK Innovation plan to invest $11.4 billion in the US electric vehicle and battery sector— including three dedicated battery plants with a combined 129GWh capacity.

The money is earmarked for sites in the US states of Kentucky and Tennessee as Ford looks to secure a supply of batteries for its North American assembly plants.

Ford will be investing $7 billion of the overall cash boost into US manufacturing, with the South Korean firm SK Innovation delivering the rest of the funding.

The plants are due to begin coming online in 2025 to supply batteries for next-generation electric Ford and Lincoln vehicles.

A $5.6 billion 3,600-acre mega campus in Tennessee called Blue Oval City, will “reimagine” how vehicles and batteries are made and include a battery plant called BlueOvalSK and an assembly plant. 

It is believed the battery manufacturing capacity of the Tennessee plant will be 43GWh.

Kentucky battery plant

In central Kentucky, $5.8 billion has been made available to build a 1,500-acre dedicated battery-manufacturing complex called the BlueOvalSK Battery Park. 

Twin co-located plants at the site will be capable of producing up to 43GWh each for a total of 86GWh annually. 

Ford estimates it will need 140GWh battery supply to meet its manufacturing demand.

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Hammond wins BCI innovation award for its lead battery-boosting additive

Fri, 10/01/2021 - 09:29 -- paul Crompton

Lead-acid additives firm Hammond Group has been awarded the 2021 BCI Innovation Award— the second time the US company has scooped the industry title. 

The award was presented to Hammond’s for its patent-pending lead silicate innovation, which enables batteries to achieve the benefits of reduced acid stratification without any of the downsides inherent to traditional solutions. 

The additive integrates with the lead oxide plate structure significantly increasing surface area. 

These “micro-sponges” trap the acid electrolyte and slow its release during charging. By reducing the rate of electrolyte outflow, the acid density gradient is minimised.

Battery Council International (BCI) presents the annual award to celebrate innovation in equipment, processes, services and products that advance the lead battery industry. 

The award was established in 2016 to honour industry thought leader, Sally Breidegam Miksiewicz, former CEO of East Penn Manufacturing Co. 

The Indiana, US-based company specialises in manufacturing technically-supported battery oxides, read leads, expanders and other specialty chemicals.

Terrence Murphy, chief executive officer of Hammond, said: “Hammond is honoured to again be recognised for its commitment to the lead battery industry and our commitment to enhancing this technology for advanced energy storage.

“We’re committed to this industry as a specialty chemical company and look forward to continuing to work with [the industry] in our combined efforts to continue to improve the most sustainable energy storage technology on the planet — lead batteries." 

Battery Council International received eight submissions for the Innovation Award

Roger Miksad, executive vice president of BCI, said: "We continue to be impressed with the innovations companies are creating to move the lead battery industry forward and we are eager to see the impact these advancements will have."

Abertax received an honourable mention for their submission.

Hammond first won the inaugural award in 2016 for its innovation and technical breakthrough that improves lead-acid battery charge acceptance and cycle life.

You can read BEST’s exclusive interview with Terry Murphy HERE

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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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