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Spherical Graphite

OVERVIEW

Battery Minerals is now operating a spherical graphite (SPG) production facility, based in Nevada USA, which processes the company’s mined graphite, creating 99.99% Total Graphitic Carbon SPG – a battery-grade material used in the production of anodes.

The production facility is already producing test batches of SPG, which have proved to be highly economical.

Battery Minerals has completed a Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS), released to the ASX on 15 February 2017, which also confirms the strong business case presented in its initial trial operations.

In addition to its economic strengths, the processing facility uses high-temperature purification methods, powered by a nearby hydroelectricity plant, to create an environmentally-friendly SPG alternative. It is common in the SPG industry to use harsh processing chemicals, typically dominated by toxic hydrofluoric acid, which are harmful to the environment.

The production facility is being developed in conjunction with a consortium of near term graphite producers and specialist battery manufacturing experts: Elcora Advanced Materials Corp (TSXV: ERA), Northern Graphite Corporation (TSXV: NGC) and Nouveau Monde Mining Enterprises Inc. (TSXV: NOU). The graphite consortium members were preselected to work with a leading provider of energy storage consulting services and advanced battery component manufacturing based in USA.

PREFEASIBILITY STUDY (PFS)

A summary of the PFS for the company’s SPG processing facility can be found below:

  • Total NPV – US $377.1 million
  • Annual production – 20,000 tonnes
  • Life of project gross revenue – US$4,904 million
  • Life of project net revenue – US$1,558 million
  • Life of project total costs – US$3,345 million
  • Capital expenditure[i] – US$48million
  • Project payback – 1.5 years

The process is summarised below.

SPHERICAL GRAPHITE (SPG)

Spherical graphite is a physically and chemically altered form of graphite that is optimal for use in anodes for lithium ion batteries (LiB). SPG is a key ingredient by volume in LiBs.

The rounded shape of SPG, allows for more efficient packaging of particles in a LiB which increases the energy capacity of the anode. This market for SPG is growing very rapidly due to the growing global demand for electric vehicles (motor vehicles, passenger and heavy transport) as well as home energy storage solutions.

Historically SPG has been derived from synthetic graphite, a significantly more costly option when compared against natural flake graphite (NFG).

NFG can disrupt synthetic graphite as the primary source of material used to make SPG as synthetic graphite. There is a significant cost advantage in favour of NFG which is defining, as battery manufacturer seek to reduce the overall cost of LiB’s.

BAT is seeking to provide low cost high quality natural flake graphite (NFG) to the SPG facility to produce cost competitive SPG.

The global production of spherical graphite is currently dominated by China and LiB’s manufacturers are actively seeking alternative supply options.

The spherical graphite produced in China is usually purified and either coated domestically within China or sent to Japan, where the anode ready coated spherical graphite is then supplied to battery manufacturers worldwide.

Testwork to date has confirmed that BAT’s natural flake graphite from both the Montepuez and Balama Central Projects is ideally suitable for Lithium Ion Battery (LiB) applications.

SPHERODISATION

The advanced Spherodisation process which uses no chemicals as per traditional spherical graphite production is completed via a 100% mechanical process, providing significant environmental benefits.

BAT and the Consortium member are expected to benefit from the 3 years of efforts spent working on this mechanical process with Japanese, German, and Chinese companies. The aim is to consistently increase the standard yield from 30% to greater than 70%.

PURIFICATION

Battery Minerals and the Consortium are developing a purification technology to deliver industry-leading standards in product purity, environmental impact and lowest costs.

The purification stage is critical for high-powered batteries, such as the ones commonly used in the electric automotive industry.  The process improves the chemical characteristics of the product to deliver optimum power and performance.

[i] Cash flow excludes interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation