Toronto, Nov 20, 2020
XProEM Ltd, developers of lithium ion battery (LIB) recycling technologies, announced today the next phase of their project, which will involve the building of a pilot recycling facility by mid 2021. Numerous sources report that LIB disposal without recycling or proper handling can lead to severe environmental pollution and adversely affect human health due to the toxic materials used in their makeup. The economic impetus for recycling has become particularly prevalent since 2017, when lithium prices hit 15,000 USD/t Li2CO3. Treating and recycling spent LIBs is essential both from an environmental and an economic perspective. Additionally, this would alleviate a supply chain impact by recycling key raw materials for cathode manufacturing that can otherwise face a supply shortage. With electric vehicles (EVs) globally expected to exceed 145 million vehicles on the road by 2030, use of LIBs in EV applications is expected to be the primary driver of growth. There is subsequently a large and growing market for LIBs requiring recycling after their end-of-life in EV applications especially (~65% of which will be from China – the largest EV market over the next 15 years). More than 2 million tonnes of spent LIB EV packs need to be recycled by 2025 globally, representing a market value of over 5-10 B USD.
Mr Xintong Liu, President and CEO of XProEM Ltd. Strongly feels that “lithium ion batteries will be the powerhouse of the global energy ecosystem for the next two decades, and XProEM will be there the entire way to safeguard the development of the LIB industry by taking care of the environmental aspects. With the ability to properly handle the waste batteries, and recover valuable components from within, XProEM has a sustainable solution to several challenges around the application and recycling of LIBs.”
Hydrometallurgy is currently the main process route used to recycle LIBs. Since large amounts of chemical solvent and complicated leaching/crystallization steps are used, the hydrometallurgy process is highly sensitive to process inputs and prone to instability under feed composition variations. Hydrometallurgical processes generate huge effluent volumes, and utilize a large amount of water, both of which have negative environmental impacts. On the other hand, pyrometallurgical processes are focused on the production of metallic alloys by melting the entire spent LIB pack at high temperatures, thus consuming a significant amount of energy. While hydro and pyrometallurgy are capable techniques for now, there is clearly a dichotomy on which route is more advantageous, and the answer may be neither. As the complexity and amount of LIB applications continues to grow and evolve, these technologies need to be challenged, and the status quo should be disrupted.
Dr Kinnor Chattopadhyay, Chairman and CTO of XProEM Ltd., said “While recycling and resource recovery is a necessity to ensure a sustainable circular economy for the lithium ion battery supply chain, it is also a cornerstone of our proprietary S3M process, allowing us to create value in an environmentally friendly and low-cost manner.”
XProEM has developed a proprietary physical separation process, Variable Vacuum Vapour Extraction (V3E), and a proprietary chemical separation process, Solid-State Subtractive Metallurgy (S3M). The V3E separation process can accept spent battery packs and physically separate it robustly and safely into Black Mass which becomes a feed to the S3M process, among many other recycled components. XProEM’s, S3M process provides a uniquely sustainable solution to tackle the imminent problem of recycling a large amount of spent LIBs by directly recovering battery precursor materials into their metallic forms via a solid-state reduction process. As the XProEM process is operated in solid state, it is expected to consume much less energy than current recycling processes and eliminates the requirement for toxic solvents and treatment of hazardous wastewater. The process is compatible with various LIB types, and allows for efficient recovery of waste battery materials into high value products. The XProEM process effectively lowers the energy and consumable cost by 55%, lifting the gross operating margin to 45% (compared to 20-25% for pyrometallurgical and hydrometallurgical processes).
XProEM has currently completed all the required technical validation stages including:
Giving his outlook on the next steps for XProEM Ltd., Mr. Nishit Patel, COO explained, “After years of extensive research & development and testing, XProEM is ready to commence the next key phase of our commercialization roadmap by building and operating a pilot facility in 2021. This pilot facility will allow us to test feed materials directly from suppliers in large quantities. As these feed materials can vary in their impurity levels and chemical makeup, being able to test them at our pilot facility will give us the opportunity to customize our process design to best fit the needs of each customer.”
XProEM has begun setup for the pilot plant facility, expected to commence operations by early 2021 to produce a first batch of sellable products. In addition to completing the important milestone of technology commercialization, the pilot facility will also allow XProEM to test the robustness and efficiency of their technology against feed materials of varying composition and impurities provided from different suppliers and supply chain partners, requiring customized design and adjustments to both process conditions and the equipment configuration. XProEM also plans to complete a pre-feasibility study on the process by mid-2021, which will further validate the viability of the proprietary technology to be commercialized under various market conditions and financial assumptions, and move on to the design, engineering, construction and commissioning of the first full-scale operational commercial facility by 2022 – 2023. Once that first small-scale commercial facility has been built and operated successfully, it will serve as a demonstration plant for XProEM, allowing us to work with more partners and clients for scaling up the large commercial plant at a required capacity of up to 50,000 t/year of LIB packs. The implementation of the first large commercial plant can commence as soon as late 2022.
This announcement comes on the heels of significant funding commitments received by XProEM Ltd. that closed in Nov 2020.
Founded in 2018 and established in Toronto, XProEM is a Canadian company developing a disruptive clean technology and business solution to sustainably tackle the imminent problems associated with recycling spent electric vehicle (EV) lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) through their proprietary process. This is done by employing a closed-loop recycling process that transforms LIB waste into high-value materials in an environmentally friendly and economically feasible fashion.
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