As the pre-feasibility study progresses for its battery material plant, Altech Chemicals (ASX: ATC) has continued refining its “game changing” high purity alumina coating technology at its own research and development laboratory in Western Australia.
During the September quarter (Q1 FY2022), the laboratory was finalised, and the company is now undertaking R&D and test work to refine its graphite and silicon particle battery materials HPA coating technology.
Establishing its own facility means Altech doesn’t have to schedule its research around laboratory availability, which was previously the case when it was undertaken at Curtin University.
‘Game changing technology’
Altech is using the laboratory to evaluate the “potentially game changing” technology that involves combining metallurgical grade silicon with graphite as an anode material in lithium-ion batteries.
The company says the material could increase lithium-ion battery chargeability, life, performance and safety.
“The company believes that its nano technology, which coats silicon particles with a fine layer of alumina, will resolve both the swelling and first-cycle capacity loss problems that currently limit the use of metallurgical grade silicon in lithium-ion battery anodes,” Altech managing director Iggy Tan explained.
“R&D conducted by Altech has shown extremely promising results, initial battery testing was encouraging, and further testing is ongoing.”
He added the company was “rapidly gaining confidence” in the potential of its “game changing” technology.
Battery materials PFS
While progressing the new technology, Altech’s battery materials pre-feasibility (PFS) study remains on track.
The company’s 75%-owned German subsidiary Altech Industries Germany continued the study during Q1 FY2022.
It is evaluating the viability of constructing a battery materials HPA plant at an industrial site in Saxony.
Work on the PFS has advanced to the preliminary engineering design for the 10,000 tonne per annum plant. All mechanical process equipment and vendor quotations have been received.
Meanwhile, discussions with potential contractors have continued to finalise project execution and construction strategy.
Capital and input costs have all been compiled with financial modelling underway.
Also, during Q1 FY2022, Altech’s subsidiary kicked-off evaluation of the project’s environmental credentials, with plans to use 100% renewable energy to power the plant and meet Europe’s stringent standards.
Altech’s goal is to secure full green accreditation for the plant from the Centre of International Climate and Environment Research.
The second opinion process for this accreditation has begun.
According to Altech, green bonds are increasingly used to finance new and existing projects that deliver environmental benefits and a more sustainable company.
Altech aims to raise US$144 million via a green bond issue and its advisors are in the final stages of creating the investment memorandum for securing the funds.
From the raising, US$100 million will go towards construction of Altech’s Johor HPA plant in Malaysia. The remainder will service interest during the building stage of the plant.
Dedicated green bond platform Sustainable Capital will issue the bonds.
The bonds will add to the US$190 million commitment from German Government-owned KfW IPEX-Bank.
Upside at Kerrigan kaolin deposit
Altech noted upside in its feedstock for the Malaysian HPA plant during Q1 FY2022 with discovery of halloysite at the Kerrigan kaolin deposit.
Processing of 2020 drill samples led to the identification of the more valuable mineral.
Halloysite naturally occurs as microscopic tubes, which make it suited to a range of specialist applications, and means it attracts a significant premium to kaolin.
Altech is carrying out further test work on 31 samples to adequately determine the significance of the results.
Progress of HPA and battery materials plants
While awaiting completion of project finance, Altech’s Malaysian plant construction remains on care and maintenance after stage two early works were completed in mid-2020.
The company is also waiting for COVID-19 restrictions in the country to ease.
In Germany, the proposed battery materials plant site was officially opened in June this year.
Altech’s subsidiary is also progressing its European development strategy and is collaborating with various German authorities to gain a better understanding of the region’s available administrative, legislative and financial support to underpin the plant’s development.
New chief financial officer appointed
The September quarter brought about a change in Altech’s financial administration.
Experienced in both company secretary and chief financial officer positions with ASX listed companies, Martin Stein joined Altech to fulfil the chief financial role.
Mr Stein replaced Shane Volk who will remain as company secretary.
“Mr Stein’s diverse and broad finance and governance experience across a number of ASX listed companies operating in various global environments is extremely well suited to Altech’s needs,” Mr Tan said.