Quebec battery graphite facility underway
Nouveau Monde starts work on coated spherical graphite plant Metal Tech News – January 27, 2021
Last updated 2/2/2021 at 5:15pm
Toward its mission to be a carbon-neutral supplier of the graphite needed in the anodes of lithium-ion batteries, Nouveau Monde Graphite Inc. is advancing the development of a coated spherical purified graphite production facility in Quebec.
To increase the durability and energy density of lithium-ion batteries powering electric vehicles and storing renewable energy, the graphite that goes into the anodes is rolled into potato-shaped spheres and coated in a hard carbon shell. Currently, there are no commercial producers of this coated spherical purified graphite outside of China.
A feasibility study completed in 2018 detailed plans for Nouveau Monde to develop a complete mine to anode material supply chain in Quebec – flake graphite produced at a mine and processing facility near the town of Saint-Michel-des-Saints will be trucked roughly 100 miles (165 kilometers) to an advanced material plant at Becancour to be upgraded to the coated spherical graphite that serves as the anode material in most lithium-ion batteries.
"I am sure the coating initiative will prove to be a wise investment, as it further supports our vertically integrated business model. Our ongoing commercial discussions with the end-users have confirmed the importance of coated products that are ready for use in lithium-ion battery anodes as part of our international growth strategy," said Nouveau Monde Graphite President and CEO Eric Desaulniers. "By covering the entire value chain from the mine to advanced materials, we are proposing to provide our customers with a turnkey solution that combines high quality, a carbon-neutral footprint, low costs, and guaranteed traceability."
With the detailed engineering study and procurement of equipment already completed, Nouveau Monde has begun development of a 2,000-metric-ton-per-year initial phase of production at the spherical coated graphite facility that is expected to be completed early next year.
With exponential growth expected in battery production to support the EV and energy storage sectors, demand for graphite anode materials is forecast to exceed 2.8 million metric tons per year in 2025, with coated spherical graphite representing a significant proportion of this amount.
Nouveau Monde says the capacity of the main equipment selected for the spherical coated graphite production at its Bécancour facility could potentially be tripled through an upgrade in the medium term, which is expected to significantly reduce the investments required once full-scale commercial operations are reached.
In a show of support for this project, the Québec government has provided a C$600,000 grant to partly fund the development of Nouveau Monde's spherical graphite coating initiative.
"Our government is proud to support the activities of Nouveau Monde Graphite, a company involved in the battery market," said Quebec Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Jonatan Julien. "The objective of our program is to support companies in carrying out their research and development projects in order to innovate and improve the competitiveness of Québec's mining industry."
Nouveau Monde Graphite Chairman Arne Frandsen says the provincial government's "ongoing and tangible support for companies like Nouveau Monde, helps position Quebec as the 'North American electrification hub.'"
Nouveau Monde is also continuing to develop advanced materials to remain at the forefront of industry trends and strives to offer the highest performing and most environmentally friendly lithium-ion battery anode material portfolio on the market.
To this end, the company is working with Philippe Ouzilleau, a materials engineering expert and professor at McGill University, to develop new types of precursors and coating technologies to reduce the environmental footprint of these products, optimize production costs, and improve the performance of these graphite coating materials.
Nouveau Monde is also collaborating with Forge Nano to conduct laboratory testing to evaluate its atomic laser deposition coating technology on the Company's spherical graphite. These tests are expected to confirm the superior performance of the "double coating" and therefore enhance Nouveau Monde's advanced product portfolio.
"Our research partnership with the distinct Québec-based McGill University is also a show of Nouveau Monde's commitment to the Quebec center of excellence for battery materials R&D (research and development)," said Frandsen.