Syrah installs furnace at US anode plant
Able to upgrade Balama graphite to lithium-ion battery specs Metal Tech News – March 24, 2021
Last updated 3/30/2021 at 5:58pm
Syrah Resources Ltd. has installed the furnace at its Vidalia plant in Louisiana, the final component needed to begin upgrading graphite mined at its Balama operation in Mozambique into the active anode material for lithium-ion batteries in the United States.
The anodes in lithium-ion batteries are packed full of graphite that has been rolled into potato-shaped spheres and coated in a hard carbon shell that must be thermally treated.
With the installation of the furnace at Vidalia, Syrah is the most advanced producer of the active anode material outside of China.
Syrah's Vidalia facility has the capacity to produce 5,000 metric tons of unpurified spherical graphite and, with the installation of the furnace, upgrade 200 metric tons to active anode material.
While 200 metric tons per year of active anode material only represents a fraction of the current and forecasted needs in the U.S., it does represent the furthest progressed vertically integrated production of natural graphite active anode material outside of China. It also provides battery manufacturers a sample of the product to be commercially produced.
"In our view, this milestone further positions Syrah as the most progressed ex-China option for vertically integrated supply of natural graphite AAM for USA and European battery makers and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers)," said Syrah Resources CEO Shaun Verner.
Prior to installation of the furnace, Syrah had some of the purified spherical graphite produced and coated at Vidalia treated at a third-party facility to accelerate product qualification.
"We have been very encouraged by initial feedback from in-progress product testing and qualification processes," said Verner.
With the furnace installed at Vidalia, Syrah can now offer active anode material for ongoing product qualification from graphite that is mined and upgraded completely by the company.
With its anode product being verified by battery and electric vehicle manufacturers, Syrah is investigating the potential of expanding Vidalia to commercial capacity.
A bankable feasibility study completed for Syrah late last year detailed plans to scale up the Vidalia facility to 10,000 metric tons of active anode material production per year and looks at a future expansion to 40,000 metric tons per annum.
Syrah is progressing detailed designs on the initial expansion of production capacity at Vidalia and a final investment decision on this 10,000-metric-ton-per-year expansion is expected during the second half of this year, subject to end customer commitments for the product and strategic partnerships.
It is expected to take roughly 34 months and US$138 million to complete the designs, construction, and commissioning of the 10,000-metric-ton-per-day operation at Vidalia. Which would put the facility on pace to reach commercial-scale production late in 2023 or early 2024.
At a conservative 145 gigawatt-hours of annual lithium-ion battery production in the United States by 2024, the Vidalia output would only meet about 12% of the roughly 85,000 metric tons of active anode material needed by American battery makers during its first year of operation.