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Aqua Metals And 6K Energy Are Building The First Sustainable Circular Supply Chain In North America To Fuel The Growing Demand For Lithium Batteries

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By Faith Ashmore, Benzinga

The global expansion of the clean energy economy, particularly the rapid growth of lithium batteries, presents economic potential and opportunities, as well as challenges. The United States finds itself trailing behind countries like China and Korea, which have taken the lead in capturing and expanding these industries to meet the surging demand for electrified products. While the U.S. is making strides in building 'gigafactories' over the next decade, with a manufacturing capacity of nearly 1 terawatt hour anticipated by 2030, industry leaders wonder if these alone will be enough to close the gap. There is also the question of the scarcity of the critical minerals needed for batteries.

Establishing a new mine for battery-grade minerals can be lengthy, often taking seven to ten years to come online and start production. Without a sound supply chain of the critical metals needed for lithium batteries – like nickel, cobalt, copper, lithium and manganese – electric vehicle production can have sustained delays, which major car dealers witnessed in 2022 and 2023. One of the most sustainable ways to negate these complications is by building and commissioning recycling facilities, which can ramp up in as quickly as a year.

Companies like Aqua Metals Inc. (NASDAQ: AQMS) are at the forefront of this transition, redefining the recycling landscape with innovative technologies that are helping deliver a path to net-zero battery recycling. This efficient recycling process aims to position the U.S. to become a competitive player in the expanding clean energy economy.

Aqua Metals reports that it has multiple collaborations working toward building a circular supply chain for critical minerals, and it has partnered with 6K Energy, a leader in producing sustainable materials for lithium-ion batteries, to establish the first truly sustainable circular supply chain in the U.S. for critical minerals crucial to domestic lithium battery manufacturing. The partnership will yield an expansion of Aqua Metal facilities in Reno, NV, and a co-located facility at 6K Energy's PlusCAM site in Jackson, TN. These facilities will serve as hubs for producing low-carbon cathode active materials (CAM) for new batteries.

Aqua Metals is known for its AquaRefining process, a sophisticated system that transforms lithium battery ‘black mass’ – the industry term for the composite of shredded battery metals and manufacturing scraps ready to be recycled – into high-purity, reclaimed materials ready to be delivered back into the supply chain.

The company reports that the upcoming PlusCAM facility is set to make history as the world's first UniMelt plasma cathode manufacturing plant. To support the construction and expansion of PlusCAM facilities, 6K Energy has successfully raised over $350 million in funding. The Department of Energy has also provided a significant grant of $50 million towards this ambitious endeavor.

“As the world grapples for control over the critical minerals essential for lithium batteries, together with 6K Energy we are building a resilient domestic supply chain for the valuable metals that will power an electrified future,” shared Steve Cotton, President and CEO of Aqua Metals. “Through our partnership, we will be able to make the best use of these scarce resources, recycling them back into the value chain by creating cathode battery material from recycled content – strengthening U.S. manufacturing capabilities and bolstering resilience to supply chain disruptions as we accelerate the clean energy economy.”

This collaboration has the potential to pave the way for significant advancements in decarbonization and electrification efforts in the country. By repurposing end-of-life batteries and scrap materials, Aqua Metals and 6K Energy are proactively addressing the challenges associated with the supply chain of critical minerals. With the mounting dependency on battery technology and the need to recycle millions of tons of lithium-ion batteries in the coming years, adopting environmentally sound recycling methods is essential to support the deployment of clean energy technologies and combat climate change.

Featured photo by Federico Beccari on Unsplash

Benzinga is a leading financial media and data provider, known for delivering accurate, timely, and actionable financial information to empower investors and traders.

This post contains sponsored content. This content is for informational purposes only and not intended to be investing advice.

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