09/09/2021 - 11:58

King River adds new opportunity to proposed WA HPA plant

09/09/2021 - 11:58

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King River Resources says it is re-evaluating its DFS strategy that is currently considering large-scale production of high purity alumina at a manufacturing plant in Kwinana in WA. The company will now also look to leverage its proprietary processing technology to consider an initially smaller scale operation only producing high value aluminium precursor compounds used in lithium-ion batteries in order to slash the capital and operating costs of the venture.

High-purity HPA precursor product at more than 99.999 per cent purity produced by King River’s “ARC” process. Credit: File

King River Resources says it is re-evaluating its definitive feasibility study, or “DFS”, strategy that is currently considering large-scale production of high purity alumina, or “HPA”, at a manufacturing plant in Kwinana in WA. The company will now also look to leverage its proprietary processing technology to consider an initially smaller scale operation.

The scaled down version will only produce high value aluminium precursor compounds used in lithium-ion batteries and is expected to be less capital intensive to build, with lower operating costs.

Through its proprietary “ARC” HPA refining process, King River has developed a simple processing circuit that uses conventional crystallisation and calcination of a precursor product to generate high quality 4N HPA powder that is more than 99.99 per cent pure aluminium oxide powder.

The company recently launched the DFS on a potential large-scale HPA operation in Kwinana after delivering some stellar numbers from a pre-feasibility study, or “PFS”, earlier this year.

The PFS envisages the Kwinana plant to produce some 9,000 tonnes of 4N HPA annually over an initial 25-year operation, with a pay-back period of just 2.2 years.

More than $190 million per annum in free cash flows were forecast to spin out of the operation each year that has an estimated net present value of a staggering $1.04 billion. Total predicted revenues for the larger scale plant came in at $7.03 billion over the 25-year operational period, with $4.44 billion in total free cash flows estimated over that period.

King River’s proprietary ARC process appears to have opened new doors for the Perth-based company as it considers its options for the Kwinana operation.

A recent breakthrough in King River’s processing technology delivered a 5N purity aluminium precursor compound that is more than 99.999 per cent pure.

The company has now engaged specialist engineering services provider, Como Engineers to assess the prospects of an initial precursor only refinery at Kwinana.

King River will evaluate the potential of producing high value aluminium precursor compounds used in the manufacture of lithium-ion battery cathodes, an essential component for the flourishing electric vehicle industry.

King River says it will look to leverage its accumulated intellectual property to “significantly” reduce capital and operational costs compared to the numbers in large scale HPA operation. The company says the amended strategy could even result in higher rates of financial returns.

Evaluation of the alternate smaller scale route will run in parallel to the existing DFS works being progressed by the company on the larger operation.

Management says precursors with different specifications to those used in HPA production could generate greater value than standard HPA product.

The company is investigating if its precursor product can be used to produce precursor cathode active materials, or “P-CAM”, an intermediate mixed metal hydroxide used in the manufacture of lithium-ion battery cathodes.

King River is targeting P-CAMs with nickel-cobalt-aluminium and nickel-cobalt-manganese-aluminium compositions, which the company believes could be set for a big future in the lithium battery space.

According to King River management, adding aluminium to the cathode active materials increases the lifecycle of the battery whilst also playing a crucial role in their safety.

The company says it has already received encouraging results from two recently completed experiments seeking to produce nickel-cobalt-aluminium type P-CAMs. Further test-work and other studies are now planned.

Test-work to convert King River’s current precursor into a more diverse suite of aluminium precursor products, that are suitable for lithium-ion batteries, is also underway.

The company intends to use results from the ongoing test-work programs to make a final decision on a precursor only operation at Kwinana, which could see HPA production deferred to a later stage.

With the electric vehicle revolution showing no signs of slowing down, King River could carve out its own slice of the lithium boom through its precursor products that are vital for lithium-ion battery production.

 

Is your ASX-listed company doing something interesting? Contact: matt.birney@businessnews.com.au

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