Aqua Metals Inc., a sustainable lithium battery recycling company based in McCarran, Nevada, announced plans to commence phased development of a five-acre recycling campus in Tahoe-Reno, Nevada. The company says it will be designed to process more than 20 million pounds of lithium-ion battery (LIB) material each year with its innovative Li AquaRefining technology.
Aqua Metals intends to design and develop the campus with the goal of sustainably recycling enough critical metals – including lithium hydroxide, nickel, copper and cobalt – from spent LIBs to supply the raw materials for manufacturing 100,000 average electric vehicle 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. Aqua Metals currently operates what it believes to be the first sustainable LIB 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,” says Steve Cotton, president and CEO of Aqua Metals. “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 has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the five-acre site and expects to complete the purchase of the new campus, including an existing building, in February, subject to customary closing conditions and Aqua Metals’ receipt of the necessary financing with which to finance the purchase. The company’s initial plans call for upgrading the current building to install a commercial-scale Li AquaRefining system capable of recycling 3,000 tons of LIB ‘black mass’ each year. The company expects to complete the redevelopment of the current space and finalize equipment installation this year and commence operations at the new campus in the first quarter of 2024.
Aqua Metals says it plans to fund the purchase of the new property with a nondilutive loan and has entered into a nonbinding letter of intent with a mortgage lender that Aqua Metals has worked with in the past to acquire the necessary financing for the property purchase. It intends to finance the development of phase one of the project through a nondilutive loan. The company is currently in discussions with a provider of debt financing that has provided financing in the past.
“We believe our phased campus will enable us to scale cost-effectively as we acquire new customers and build new partnerships,” Cotton says. “We expect that phase one will process 3,000 metric tons 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 LIB recycling facility, Aqua Metals expects to build a second LIB recycling facility at the property with the capacity to process an additional 6,000 tons of lithium black mass annually. The company also anticipates building additional space for enhanced research and development into sustainable recycling innovations and processing novel LIB chemistries to further 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,” says Ben Taecker, Aqua Metals’ chief engineering and operating officer. “With on-site clean energy, and our ground-breaking Lithium AquaRefining technology, we believe this will be the cleanest and safest lithium battery recycling facility in the world.”