Aqua Metals selects TRIC for lithium battery recycling campus

Aqua Metals' phased campus proposal, showing the existing building (lower right) and planned expansions.

Aqua Metals' phased campus proposal, showing the existing building (lower right) and planned expansions.
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Aqua Metals, Inc., plans phased development of a five-acre recycling campus at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center designed to process more than 20 million pounds of lithium-ion battery material annually, according to a news release.

Nevada is the only state with companies across every facet of the lithium battery supply chain (mining, manufacturing, and recycling), the release said. Aqua Metals intends to design and develop the campus with the goal of sustainably recycling enough critical metals – like lithium hydroxide, nickel, copper and cobalt – from spent lithium batteries to supply the raw materials for manufacturing 100,000 average EV battery packs every year.

The company’s patent-pending Li AquaRefining technology is a closed-loop recycling system based on electroplating, producing high-purity metals with electricity instead of polluting furnaces or one-time-use chemical waste of other recycling approaches, the release said. Aqua Metals currently operates what it believes to be the first sustainable lithium battery recycling facility at its nearby Li AquaRefining pilot plant and plans to power the new commercial-scale campus using on-site renewable energy and purchase additional carbon-free energy to match its usage and overall carbon impact.

“Our campus vision is a testament to Aqua Metals’ commitment to the future of sustainable lithium battery recycling essential to meeting U.S. electrification and battery manufacturing ambitions in the coming decade," Steve Cotton, president and CEO, said in the release. “Our plans also represent a meaningful investment in clean energy jobs in the Nevada battery industry, as a leader in the effort to create a secure and sustainable domestic supply chain for the metals needed to power electric vehicles and build battery energy storage systems.”

Aqua Metals expects to complete the purchase of the campus, including an existing building, in February. Plans call for upgrading the current building to install a commercial-scale Li AquaRefining system capable of recycling 3,000 tons of lithium battery “black mass” each year, the release said. The company expects to complete redevelopment of the current space and finalize equipment installation this year, and to commence operations at the new campus in the first quarter of 2024.

Aqua Metals intends to fund the purchase with a non-dilutive loan and has entered into a non-binding letter of intent with a mortgage lender.

Aqua Metals also intends to finance the development of Phase One through a non-dilutive loan. The company is in discussions with a provider of debt financing that has provided financing in the past, the release said.

“We believe our phased campus will enable us to scale cost-effectively as we acquire new customers and build new partnerships,” Cotton said. “We expect that phase one will process 3,000 MT of black mass per year at full capacity -– 30 times that of our current pilot operation – resulting in significant revenue for the company.”

In phase two, subject to the successful operation of the first facility, Aqua Metals expects to build a second lithium battery recycling facility with capacity to process an additional 6,000 tons of lithium black mass per year. In this phase, the company also anticipates building additional space for enhanced research and development into sustainable recycling innovations and processing novel lithium battery chemistries to expand the capabilities of the clean metals recycling campus.

“With our new campus, we are taking what we’ve already learned from building and operating our successful Li AquaRefining pilot facility and scaling it at the right pace,” said Ben Taecker, Aqua Metals' chief engineering and operating officer. “With on-site clean energy … we believe this will be the cleanest and safest lithium battery recycling facility in the world.”

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