Lithium-ion recycling firm ups capacity
Significant increase to initial stage of RecycLiCo pilot plant Metal Tech News – September 9, 2020
Last updated 9/15/2020 at 9pm
American Manganese Inc. Sept. 4 announced further improvements to the design and capacity of its RecycLiCo pilot plant, which recovers cobalt, lithium, nickel, manganese, and aluminum from lithium-ion cathode material.
In addition to the growing opportunity to recycle spent lithium-ion batteries, scrap from the rapidly increasing number of battery megafactories provides an immediate source of cathode material in need of recycling.
According to recent forecasts by Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a world-leading lithium-ion battery supply chain analytical firm, an average lithium-ion battery scrap rate of 10% could result in as much as 64,000 metric tons of lithium chemical, 96,000 metric tons of graphite anode, 45,000 metric tons of nickel, 18,000 metric tons of cobalt, and 22,000 metric tons of manganese being recycled by 2025. This would make the battery scrap recycling sector as large as the entire lithium-ion battery market in 2017.
Recognizing this rapidly growing need and opportunity, American Manganese is commissioning the RecycLiCo pilot plant project and strategizing a commercial plant around cathode scrap feedstock.
To realize this opportunity, American Manganese contracted Kemetco Research Inc., a British Columbia-based tech company that specializes in analytical chemistry and extractive metallurgy, to help design and optimize the RecycLiCo processes.
The latest optimizations involve increases to the pilot plant's capacity to separate the active cathode material – lithium, nickel, manganese, and cobalt – from the aluminum foil in the battery. This step needs to happen before the active cathode materials can be turned into high-purity materials that can be reused by the lithium-ion battery sector.
With the latest round of optimizations by Kemetco, the pilot plant's pre-leach stage processing capacity has been increased from 160 to 292 kg/day of lithium-ion battery cathode scrap material. This is on top of an increase announced in June from 64 to 160 kg/day.
"Optimization testing has been a beneficial learning curve and we are thrilled to announce a 356% increase in the pre-leach processing capacity of the pilot plant, which we can incorporate into the detailed engineering of our commercial plant design," said American Manganese President and CEO Larry Reaugh.
The latest round of pre-leach capacity increases is related to specialty equipment provided to Kemetco following the June results.
Now, American Manganese and Kemetco will focus on increasing the capacity of the leach circuit to match the much larger output from the pre-leach stage.
In previous tests, Kemetco produced a 99.99% pure nickel-cobalt sulfate product, as well as high purity lithium carbonate using the process developed for the RecycLiCo pilot plant.
Earlier this year, American Manganese and Kemetco developed a conceptual layout for a commercial scale recycling plant with the capacity to process 3 metric tons of lithium-ion battery cathode per day. Kemetco estimates it would cost US$12 million to build this facility, accounting for the design and construction of specialized equipment.
American Manganese has expressed interest in commercialization of the process it is developing via licensing or joint venture agreements and plans to locate the recycling plant in a strategic location within North America, where it will prepare recycled products suitable for battery manufacturing.
"Our methodological approach was not an overnight success like some competitors may allude and our first recycling plant will be a demonstration of the RecycLiCo patented process on a commercial scale as we continue to expand our global reach," Reaugh said in May.