Altech Chemicals Limited’s (ASX: ATC) 75% owned German subsidiary, Altech Industries Germany GmbH (AIG), has commenced the pre-feasibility study (PFS) for construction of a battery materials high purity alumina (HPA) coating plant in Saxony, Germany.
The PFS will assume a phase 1 coating plant designed with the capacity to coat 10,000tpa (35tpd) of anode graphite, using Altech’s alumina coating technology.
The design capacity has been derived from a forecast of European lithium-ion battery plant production capacity that is estimated at ~500 GWh/a by 2025.
Based on this forecast the total amount of graphite expected to be required for anode production in Europe is ~500,000tpa when all of the planned lithium-ion battery plants’ reach full production.
However, in determining the size of the coating plant for the PFS, AIG has conservatively assumed that only 50% of the forecast lithium- ion battery plants will eventuate, and as such the proposed coating plant capacity of 10,000tpa would represent 4% of the overall forecast European market for anode graphite.
The lay-out of the proposed coating plant at the proposed site, the Schwarze Pumpe Industrial Park in Saxony, Germany will be such that it would allow for the construction of additional materials coating capacity in the future, such as a silicon coating plant and/or additional graphite coating capacity.
The study will assume the use of 100% renewable power from the local grid with some minor on-site solar generation for buildings. The design will target green project status. It is planned that once the PFS is completed, the project will be accessed for green accreditation by the Centre of International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO), Norway.
The battery material coating process consists of four stages. Stage 1 is a HPA precursor production step using an alternative aluminium feedstock. It will be assumed that the HPA precursor would ultimately be supplied from Altech’s HPA plant in Johor, Malaysia once operational. The option for an alternate initial precursor supply will allow the coating plant to have a development timeframe that is independent of Johor.
Stage 2 of the process is the receival of the anode battery material (graphite or silicon) in bulk bags or drums. The next step is the HPA nano layer coating process which will take place in the coating section of the plant – this is the proprietary technology that Altech has developed. The last stage in the process is finalisation of the coated material, which is then packaged in either bulk bags or drums for shipment to end users.
HPA is commonly applied as a coating on the separator sheets used within a lithium-ion battery, as alumina coated separators improve battery performance, durability and overall safety. However, evolving demand for alumina within the anode component of the lithium-ion battery has been identified because of the potential positive impacts that alumina coated graphite and silicon particles may have on lithium-ion battery life and performance.
Lithium-ion battery anodes are typically composed of graphite, with some batteries currently incorporating small amounts of silicon. In a lithium-ion battery, lithium-ion losses initially present as inactive layers that form during the very first battery charge cycle, the losses then compound with each subsequent battery usage cycle. Typically, around 8% of lithium ions are lost during the very first battery charge cycle. This “first cycle capacity loss” or “first-cycle irreversibility” is a long recognised but as yet poorly resolved limitation that has plagued rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
Altech’s nano-layer alumina coating technology is expected to improve Coulombic Efficiency (CE) (especially the CE in first cycle), cycling stability, high-rate performance and fast charging capability. The initiative also offers another potential avenue to secure a portion of future HPA production from its Johor plant at a predetermined floor price, which would support project financial close.