Battery recycling starts up for Neometals in Canada
Neometals has joined the ranks of companies that are seeking to “close the loop” in the lithium cycle with the awarding of contracts to construct and operate Stage 1 of its lithium-ion battery, or “LIB”, recycling pilot plant in Canada to SGS Canada Inc.
Stage 1 effectively shreds the batteries and removes the metal casings and plastics, leaving the raw materials for the mineral processing and chemical extraction sequence of the process.
The feed preparation part of the pilot plant, which is located at SGS’ fully accredited Lakefield facility in the province of Ontario, has already prepared about 2 tonnes of used battery materials for the Stage 2 hydrometallurgical processing and refining phase, that is designed to deliver high-purity battery materials to the market.
The pilot operation provides a showcase and presentation to potential customers regarding the company’s processing capabilities and precedes the front-end engineering studies, expected to kick off in the second half of 2019.
According to Neometals, the process can take a wide variety of LIB input materials including from consumer electronics, electric vehicle batteries and the emerging domestic stationary energy storage sector.
The pilot plant will aim to verify assumptions made at the bench-scale, provide data required for the engineering study and generate market samples of the output products for potential customers.
Neometals Managing Director Chris Reed said: “We are delighted to see our battery recycling project back on track. The commissioning of the pilot (plant) represents a significant milestone and marks the culmination of extensive research and development into a flowsheet to process multiple battery chemistries, from consumer electronics to electric vehicle applications.”
“With ever increasing volumes of commercial LIBs reaching their end of life, we are focussed on proving at scale, then qualifying our scale‐able and modular recycling solution with industry as early as possible. The pilot (plant) will serve as a showcase facility for potential partners as well as provide strong independent data for future engineering and financial studies”.
Only about 5% of LIBs are presently recycled globally, although worldwide, regulations are tightening with haste.
These regulations combined with increased requirements for ethical sourcing of “battery” minerals like lithium, cobalt, nickel and manganese, provides Neometals with a significant opportunity to get ahead of the pack.
Recycling of these valuable materials from spent LIBs will allow the company to recover the non-renewable commodities, whilst reducing the environmental impacts associated with battery disposal, which is in essence, a win-win scenario.
Neometals’ process flowsheet recovers more than 90% of all battery materials, that would otherwise go into landfill worldwide.
The company’s General Manager of Product Development and Marketing, Paul Wallwork, commented on the market for LIB recycling saying: “There is little argument from analysts and industry participants that LIB demand is expected to grow very strongly.”
Such applications include expansions for the production of refined chemicals used in LIB electrodes, the commissioning of the next wave of planned LIB mega‐factories and the arrival of deadlines set by countries and vehicle manufacturers to phase out internal combustion engines in favour of electrically-driven transportation.
Mr Wallwork added: “We believe that Neometals will have a unique offering with a business model that is as important as the proprietary technology itself. Having the flexibility to locate in proximity to manufacturers who have products with consistent chemistry allows ready access to defective batteries, production scrap and end of life cells. We don’t believe scale is the key to profitability”.
The next steps include the front-end engineering study and then the completion of an economic feasibility study to give the company commercial information relating to about 80% of the overall costs at an early development stage.
Having access to this important data, will then permit Neometals to initiate commercial discussions with potential partners to start tailoring the staged process and deliver the requested battery-grade chemicals in the form and quantity that they are required.