Aqua Metals Inc., McCarran, Nevada, says its operations team has achieved sequential production records for AquaRefined lead and lead metal bullion in March, April and May, having produced approximately 60,000 pounds of AquaRefined lead in March, 140,000 pounds in April and 200,000 pounds in May.
“I am proud of our team for all their hard work as we focus on increasing concentrate production by optimizing the newly installed Phase One equipment,” says Steve Cotton, president and chief executive officer. “We continue to ramp our production of finished AquaRefined lead ingots month-over-month and anticipate another record month in June. This puts us in line with our guidance for the quarter and speaks to the significant progress we have made so far in 2019. It also gives us further confidence that we will achieve our goal of having all 16 AquaRefining modules running by year end.”
The company uses a water-based, room-temperature process, known as AquaRefining, to refine lead from end-of-life automotive batteries. In the process, lead paste that is removed from lead-acid batteries is not dried as it is in the traditional recycling process that involves smelting and refining. Instead, the wet paste is pumped into digestion tanks that are filled with a nontoxic solvent. In the tanks, the lead compounds in the paste are dissolved in an electro-chemical process, and the mixture is electrocuted, converting the dissolved lead compounds into lead.
The AquaRefining process generates primary lead ingots, lead-acid-battery-grade lead alloy ingots, clean plastic chips that are recovered from the battery casings and sulfuric acid.
The company encountered an issue with its production process in late 2017, which it addressed by installing a retrofit package on one of its modules to prevent the recovered lead from getting hung up on the AquaRefining modules’ exit chutes.
Following that Dec. 1, 2017, announcement, initial testing of the solution was completed using one electrolyser during the remainder of December 2017, Aqua Metals says. This solution was then expanded to one full module, comprised of six electrolysers, and operated during January and early February before the company approved the electrolyser retrofit design for production. The solution was applied to all 16 AquaRefining modules, according to the company.
Aqua Metals also implemented additional improvements to its plant, including the breaker, separation systems, electrolyte production and ingot line, to scale up its operations.