Perth-based lithium battery recycling startup Renewable Metals, a company chaired by seasoned mining executive Peter Beaven, has raised $8 million in seed funding to scale and commercialise its ground-breaking technology.
The funding round drew investments from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), Investible, Virescent Ventures and Grantham Foundation, and will be used to stand up a pilot plant in Perth and facilitate construction of a larger demonstration plant that can recycle up to 1,500 tonnes of lithium battery waste a year.
Renewable Metals uses an alkaline leaching process that eliminates the need to pre-process to black mass by crushing battery cells.
The company says its process simplifies the extraction process and reduces the cost by up to 30 per cent compared to other technologies without creating a secondary waste problem that requires disposal of sodium sulphate.
“This process has achieved metal recovery rates of greater than 95 per cent at pilot scale, including for lithium, which is significantly higher than that demonstrated in published competitor data,” says Renewable Metals.
The company’s technology can also be applied to other battery chemistries, which it says will become critical as LFP (lithium ferro phosphate) batteries take greater market share. The current recycling technology for these batteries is not economically attractive, it says.
“To decarbonise quickly, the world needs cost-effective recycling solutions that maximise recovery for all types of lithium batteries - not just the higher-value ones with nickel and cobalt,” says Renewable Metals CEO Luan Atkinson.
“We’re thrilled to be backed by Investible, the CEFC, Virescent Ventures and Grantham Foundation. Their support will accelerate our scale-up plans and help create two to three times more value than the current Australian practice of exporting batteries or black mass for recycling overseas.”
Renewable Metals was founded by Mark Urbani, Gary Johnson and Nick Vines – all three of them with a background in metallurgy – with the company this year winning the inaugural EnergyLab-backed Supercharge Australia Innovation Challenge Award.
The company enlisted Peter Beaven, a former CFO of BHP (ASX: BHP), as its chairman in June this year.
Renewable Metals aims to capture a growing market need with demand for batteries forecast to increase 18-fold over 2020 levels as EV take-up increases.
The company says mines globally are currently capable of producing enough lithium for 15.5 million EVs, or just 18 per cent of all light vehicle production.
In 2021, only 10 per cent of Australia’s lithium-ion battery waste was recycled, compared to 99 per cent of lead battery waste.
Investible led the $8 million seed round for Renewable Metals through its Climate Tech Fund.
The venture capitalist’s investment manager Ben Lindsay says the recycling technology brings ‘a vital input to electrification to Australia’.
“The company’s proprietary closed loop system is reducing the initial carbon footprint of EVs while helping address a bottleneck and major anti-EV argument, with less harsh chemicals and by-products, at a lower cost,” Lindsay says.
The CEFC, via Virescent Ventures, is backing Renewable Metals to the tune of $2.5 million to drive what it sees as ‘an excellent example of Australian innovation in the battery and critical minerals space’.
“There is a growing global need for effective waste management strategies as demand for lithium-ion batteries rises, driven by the increasing electrification of transport and the renewable energy generation storage sector,” says Virescent Ventures partner Blair Pritchard.
“Battery recycling that extracts valuable metals and materials is an important part of building Australia’s circular economy as demand for batteries grows.
“By developing end-of-life battery systems, Australia can participate across the battery value chain, from critical minerals extraction, refining, processing operation and maintenance and the eventual repurposing and recycling of batteries and components.
“The Renewable Metals process is capable of retrieving up to 95 per cent of the valuable metals from an end-of-life battery, which is around 20 per cent more lithium than existing recycling facilities. This makes it ideal for recycling of lithium ferro-phosphate batteries, which have not yet been economical to recycle.”
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