The manganese, cobalt and nickel solvent extraction technology will be used at Li-Cycle’s battery recycling plant in Rochester, New York.
Metso Outotec, headquartered in Helsinki, says it has signed an agreement with Li-Cycle North America Hub Inc. for the supply of manganese, cobalt and nickel solvent extraction technology to be used at its battery recycling plant that is being constructed in Rochester, New York. The contract value was not disclosed.
The Metso Outotec delivery includes three modular VSFX solvent extraction plants and related Dual Media filters as well as basic engineering.
Jari Ålgars, president of the Metals business area at Metso Outotec, says, “The energy-efficient, modular VSFX solvent extraction plant, which is part of our Planet Positive product range, reduces emissions and is safe to operate. The Li-Cycle project will be an important new reference for Metso Outotec in the battery recycling business.”
Li-Cycle, which is headquartered in Toronto, has developed a hub-and-spoke model for lithium-ion battery recycling. Ajay Kochhar, the company’s co-founder, president and CEO, has said that Li-Cycle’s hub-and-spoke model solves the logistics problem associated with lithium-ion batteries by decentralizing the mechanical processing of the batteries near generators, namely battery manufacturers and areas with high concentrations of EV use. The company also is working with aggregators of end-of-life electronics. Its spokes produce black mass—a mixture of lithium, manganese, cobalt and nickel—as well as a mixed aluminum and copper product and plastics. This material is then further processed at hub locations, with the first commercial-scale facility in Rochester.
Li-Cycle recently announced it will expand the input processing capacity of its Rochester hub by more than 40 percent to 35,000 metric tons of black mass annually, which is equivalent to nearly 90,000 metric tons of lithium-ion batteries. Li-Cycle also says the increased capacity will allow the facility to process battery material that is the equivalent of about 225,000 electric vehicles (EVs) per year.
The technology will allow the plant to recycle and reuse 15,000 tons of paper per year.
Building materials manufacturer Saint-Gobain, with North American headquarters in Malvern, Pennsylvania, has announced it installed recycling technology at its gypsum wallboard plant in Silver Grove, Kentucky, through its building products subsidiary CertainTeed, which it says will allow the plant to recycle 15,000 tons of paper per year that otherwise would have been sent to a landfill.
The project was announced months after Saint-Gobain rolled out its new global Grow and Impact strategy, which includes reducing waste and increasing the circularity of raw materials at its manufacturing sites. CertainTeed invested $850,000 into the recycling equipment.
Gypsum wallboard is made from a gypsum slurry that is poured and dries between two sheets of paper, and some scrap material consisting of gypsum and paper is normally created every time a production line is started or shut down or when production equipment is changed to manufacture different sizes of wallboard.
CertainTeed captures and recycles most of the gypsum in this scrap material at all its gypsum plants, including Silver Grove, but the scrap paper in this process could not be recycled through traditional means because it was coated in gypsum. The new equipment in Silver Grove grinds the scrap gypsum and paper to finer particles, allowing the plant to capture and internally recycle both the gypsum particles and paper particles, which are then sorted and reintroduced to the production process at the plant.
“This project allows us to reduce our waste and reduce our production costs in Silver Grove while also empowering us to increase the efficiency of our use of natural resources,” says Jay Bachmann, vice president and general manager of CertainTeed gypsum. “We will continue to look for ways to minimize our environmental footprint while maximizing our company’s positive impact for our customers and the communities where we do business.”
The CertainTeed facility in Silver Grove is the largest gypsum wallboard plant in North America and one of the largest in the world. The recycling project at the facility follows several investments in environmental sustainability this year, including renewable energy and sustainable manufacturing and construction initiatives.
The report shows workplace fatalities for refuse and recyclable materials collection fell to 33.1 in 2020 from 35.2 in 2019.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released the 2020 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, showing refuse and recyclable materials collection remains the sixth deadliest occupation in the U.S.
While this ranking has remained unchanged since last year, the report notes that total collection worker fatalities have continued to decline. The workplace fatality rate for this group fell to 33.1 in 2020 from 35.2 in 2019.
“SWANA is very pleased BLS has confirmed SWANA’s data showing a decline in collection worker fatalities in 2020. This continues a trend that started in 2019 and has accelerated this year,” says David Biderman, executive director and CEO of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA). “Our Safety Ambassadors program, Hauler Safety Outreach initiatives and other safety activities appear to be paying dividends, and we expanded our safety offerings in 2021 by adding a very successful weekly safety newsletter. The goal is to reduce worker fatalities and get waste collection employees out of the top 10 list.”
Biderman adds that SWANA will continue to work with its members and industry partners to improve the solid waste industry’s safety performance and provide educational resources and leadership on this important industry issue.
Solid waste collection saw a reduction in workplace fatalities in 2020, with 38 collection employee deaths. This continues a downward trend from 57 in 2018 and 43 in 2019.
Fatalities at material recovery facilities (MRFs) increased slightly from three in 2019 to four in 2020. Solid waste landfills saw six fatalities in 2020, while BLS recorded none the previous year. According to data collected by SWANA, however, at least two landfill workers were killed on the job in 2019.
Regardless, the association states this portion of the industry saw a steady decline over the previous five years.
Notably, the BLS fatality census does not report any illness-related information, including COVID-19. Fatal workplace illness not caused by an injury are not within the scope of this report.
“Solid waste is a dangerous industry on so many levels, and we must collectively work to bring awareness to those most vulnerable to injury or worse,” says Suzanne Sturgeon, SCS Engineers’ safety manager and SWANA National Safety Committee Chair. “As an industry, we have tools in place to help with this process, and SWANA is a great resource. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel to get started and can rely on our allies in the industry to help us make a difference.”
“It is positive to hear our industry remains out of the top five deadliest occupations in the United States,” says Amberlyn Melton Liles, superintendent of environmental services for the city of Oxford, Mississippi, and safety ambassador for the SWANA Magnolia Chapter. “In every industry, accidents will happen. The solid waste industry must continue to promote employee and public safety diligently to move out of the top ten deadliest occupations in the United States.”
Copper scrap spreads have tightened as of mid-December. Will that tightness remain in the new year?
Processors and traders of nonferrous scrap are predicting a strong year ahead, which is not to say they are without their concerns.
Scott Tauben, vice president of Metalsco, a nonferrous scrap trading company based in St. Louis, says demand for copper is strong and growing, in part because of the projected growth in electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing. However, he fears pricing could reach the $6 level within the next year or two, which he says would not be good as it could lead to increased theft and security problems for homeowners, scrap dealers and construction sites.
A number of investment banks foresee the red metal reaching or exceeding that level by the middle of the decade. For example, as of October, analysts at Goldman Sachs were predicting that copper prices could average $11,875 per metric ton, or $5.40 per pound, in 2022; $12,000 per metric ton, or $5.45 per pound, in 2023; $14,000 per metric ton, or $6.36 per pound, in 2024; and $15,000 per metric ton, or more than $6.80 per pound, in 2025.
The Goldman Sachs analysts forecasted that the London Metal Exchange copper price would reach $10,500 per metric ton by the end of 2021, adding: “At the heart of our renewed bullish copper call—coming in spite of very real risks to the Chinese property sector and global growth—is the fact that the physical market is becoming increasingly tight, with minimal near-term risks to the balance in our view.”
While scrap generation still has not returned to prepandemic levels, Tauben says it has been slowly trending upward this year, though winter weather has the potential to interfere with scrap flows.
“We have had good flow through mid-November, but we have seen volumes slow a little in the last few weeks,” says Mitchell Goldberg, CEO of Northeast Metal Traders, a nonferrous scrap processor and broker headquartered in Philadelphia. “I believe there are two reasons for this slow-up. First, the slight drop from $4.50 to the current market is a factor, and, secondly, the suppliers are holding inventory to manage their tax liability for year-end.”
Both Tauben and Goldberg say domestic and export demand have been strong for red metal scrap.
“All our consumers report full order books,” Goldberg says, with many domestic consumers purchasing material midmonth for December delivery and booking additional 2022 business, anticipating strong demand.
Tauben says he’s also hearing that the consumers his company supplies are busy, noting this is likely why spreads are tightening as of mid-December. He adds that they might loosen come January.
Goldberg, who says spreads are tighter than they have been in some time, however, predicts they will remain stable or tighten based on the availability of cathode, scrap substitutes and the terminal market prices.
He mentions “phenomenal” demand from Asia and Europe. “All grades of copper and many grades of brass are easily sellable. Quoted discounts have squeezed tighter, but export shipments are also governed by container and vessel availability, and tighter spreads have less meaning if you can’t get the product on a ship.”
Goldberg adds that while not all scrap processors can meet China’s import specification, those that can are able to sell at better spreads. “That said, the demand for traditional grades is also strong, and those spreads have tightened as well.”
Tauben also points to strong demand from European consumers as well as from those in Russia, Ukraine and Turkey. “There is strong demand abroad for everything.”
In addition to the difficulties associated with ocean shipping, trucking remains challenging. Tauben says, “Anyone who has contracted an 18-wheeler in the last year has been paying—if they’re lucky—twice as much. It’s more like three to four times.”
Goldberg adds, “Trucking difficulties are rampant based on equipment availability and quality carriers that have the necessary cargo insurance to haul scrap loads at $200,000 per.”
Despite these issues, he says nonferrous scrap availability on the I-95 corridor remains strong. “Competition for the scrap in our area is even more robust. Overall, 2022 appears to have the makings of a strong year for scrap.”
Australia-based group says scrap-fed electric arc furnaces offer proven emissions reduction technology for steelmakers.
Expanding scrap steel recycling will be a significant step forward in decarbonizing the steel industry, says a new report from the Australia-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).
“Steel recycling is mature and cost-competitive,” say the report’s authors, IEEFA analysts Simon Nicholas and Soroush Basirat. “The quality of steel made from recycled scrap is on the rise even as carbon emissions from the process are poised to drop further with the continuing roll out of renewable energy.”
In 2020, global crude steel production was 1.88 billion metric tons. Of that, nearly three-quarters came from the integrated blast furnace and basic oxygen furnace process (BF-BOF), which IEEFA calls both energy- and carbon-intensive.
The groups says adopting more of the alternative electric arc furnace (EAF) option, whether using ferrous scrap or direct reduced iron (DRI), can help the steel industry lower its carbon emissions total.
Says co-author Basirat, “The energy consumption of BF-BOF processes is almost 10 times that of scrap-EAF. In addition, the direct emission of a BF-BOF process using iron ore and coal is 30 times higher than a scrap-based process.”
Steel production by the scrap-EAF route is by far the largest source of new steel in the United States, which is assisted by the high availability of scrap in such a large and mature economy, says IEEFA. In 2020, 71 percent of total crude steel production in the U.S. was via EAFs. In the EU, the figure was 42 percent.
Globally in 2020, steel produced from EAFs amounted to 26 percent of the world’s crude steel production, the bulk of it using scrap as feedstock.
The steel sector is estimated to directly emit 7 percent of the global pollution. There has been a recent focus on the potential use of green hydrogen to produce DRI to decarbonize production but, the analysts say, cost-competitive green hydrogen to use at scale is years away.
“Meanwhile, the use of scrap steel in EAFs is already a widely practiced, lower-emission steel production method,” the 22-page report says. “It is not on its own a solution to fully decarbonize the steel sector, but it is poised to help the global steel sector reduce emissions for the rest of the 2020s and in following decades,” says co-author Nicholas.
He continues, “This strongly hints at the potential for more scrap use in economies such as China, Japan and South Korea where steel recycling rates are much lower,” Nicholas says.
In 2020, China produced 57 percent of the world’s crude steel with 91 percent manufactured via the BF-BOF process, leaving just 9 percent produced via EAFs. By adopting steel recycling, China would improve its resource security by reducing its reliance on Australia’s iron ore and coking coal, says the IEEFA.
Beijing already has a ban on Australian coal imports in place and has recently resumed scrap steel imports. China’s scrap steel consumption surged by 47 percent to 138 million metric tons in the first half of 2021, says the institute.
As steelmaking via the scrap-fed EAF process does not use iron ore or coking coal, Nicholas and Basirat say, there are clear, long-term implications for exporters of these resources. Australia is by far the largest exporter of both.
There is debate over the potential for using scrap steel in producing some of the highest-quality grades, due to impurities such as copper, but these grades comprise a small portion of overall steel mill production.
In 2020, the share of the automotive sector – the most quality-sensitive category – was only 12 percent of total global steel consumption. The bulk of global steel production is for building and infrastructure products, where impurities are less of an issue and these can be manufactured via scrap-fed EAF processes, according to the IEEFA.
In addition, technology advancements mean that the scrap-fed EAF steelmaking process is now being used to make even the highest-quality automotive steel in the U.S., adds the institute.