Aqua Metals has produced the first AquaRefined lead at its AquaRefinery in McCarran, Nevada. AquaRefining is a water-based, room-temperature process that is the only clean lead recycling method for lead-acid batteries (LAB). (Earlier post.)
Through its own on-site assay, Aqua Metals has verified that the lead produced in the AquaRefining module is more than 99.99% pure. The company will send its initial production samples to several US battery manufacturing companies—which collectively represent more than 50% of US battery production—to allow them to conduct their own assays.
Recycled lead now represents more than 50% of the lead content in new LABs. Lead—whether primary (produced directly from mined lead ore) or secondary (produced from scrap lead products which have been recycled)—conventionally is produced by smelting—a high-temperature, endothermic chemical reduction that isolates pure lead from other metals and materials. Lead smelting—ranked as the third highest polluting industry in the world—can release toxic lead dust, smoke and slag with significant deleterious environmental and health consequences.
AquaRefining uses an aqueous solvent and a novel electro-chemical process to produce pure lead (i.e., higher than 99.99% purity). The electro-chemical process requires less energy than the endothermic high-temperature chemical reduction that is at the core of smelting.
Because the process does not generate toxic high temperature dust and gas, or the lead-containing slag and dross, there is no need for the capital- and energy-intensive processes to meet environmental compliance.
This is a major milestone—not just for our company, but for the entire industry. Our commercial-scale AquaRefining modules have the potential to revolutionize lead recycling and make lead-acid batteries the only truly sustainable battery technology. We are confident that our lead products will exceed the most rigorous industry specifications. I am extremely proud of our entire team for making this dream a reality.—Dr. Stephen R. Clarke, Chairman and CEO of Aqua Metals
Aqua Metals previously demonstrated the effectiveness of its technology at bench scale, pilot scale and with a single, full-size electrolyzer. The company has now produced high-quality AquaRefined lead with a commercial-scale AquaRefining module at its facility in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center in Nevada.
Over the coming weeks, the company will fully integrate the front-end battery-breaking portion of the facility, Clarke said.
Aqua Metals manufactures AquaRefining modules at its headquarters in Alameda, California. The company has built and delivered five modules to its Nevada AquaRefinery thus far and currently plans to install and commission a total of 16 modules for initial production capacity of 80 metric tons of lead per day. The company anticipates that the Nevada AquaRefinery will reach its initial production capacity within the coming months.
Aqua Metals has formed strategic partnerships with Interstate Batteries and Battery Systems International and is in discussions with nearly every major US-based battery manufacturer and recycler, as well as data center operators and household internet brands (which use lead-acid batteries for backup power).