Levitated Metals, a new company founded by President Ronak Shah, held a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday, Jan. 15, to mark the start of construction of its heavy media flotation plant in New Caney, Texas, in the East Montgomery County Industrial Park about 35 miles northeast of Houston.
Shah most recently worked with Alter Trading Corp., St. Louis, as the company’s vice president of strategy and technology, a position he held for roughly six years. Prior to that, he was the company’s senior director of operations strategy. Shah also worked for Portland, Oregon-based Schnitzer Steel Industries as director of continuous improvement.
He says he has been planning Levitated’s heavy media plant, which represents an investment of nearly $10 million, since May of last year. “It’s taken a lot of work to get where we are now.”
The company will source zorba from auto shredder operators in the South, separating the aluminum from the copper, brass, zinc, magnesium, stainless steel and other metals using an advanced flotation process. Shah says the plant will produce 10 million pounds per month when operating at full scale.
“Zorba will be our primary feedstock and what the business model is primarily driven on,” Shah says, adding that the company also will purchase zorba fines and zurik within a roughly 500-mile radius of the plant.
“Recycled aluminum is a key step in the automotive supply chain,” he says. “The aluminum block engine of an end-of-life 2007 Ford Taurus has a very similar chemistry to that of a 2020 Chevrolet Silverado. Customers reduce waste, save energy costs and are more efficient purchasing clean aluminum feedstock from Levitated Metals instead of other substitutes.”
Shah says the company’s 10-acre facility will begin production operations in September. The recovered metal packages of twitch (aluminum) and zebra (a mixture of brass, copper, zinc, nonmagnetic stainless steel and copper wire) will be marketed to smelters and processors in the U.S., Mexico and overseas, the company says.
“Texas, the Southeast United States and northern Mexico are home to dozens of melt operations,” he adds. “Levitated Metals is excited to be a valued supplier to them.
“My belief is that a large portion of aluminum will go to Mexico and the vibrant and large casting industry in the northern part of that country,” Shah continues. “I am also excited to sell into the Southeast U.S., which is home to a large number of smelters.
“Some aluminum and a large portion of the heavies will absolutely go overseas,” he adds.
Levitated does not yet have supply agreements in place but is in the early stages of establishing supply and consumer relationships, he says. “We are looking forward to meeting with suppliers and consumers.”
The company opted for heavy media separation over X-ray or sensor-based sorting, he says, because the process can make a very clean aluminum casting product by extracting more of the magnesium. “It makes a higher-quality aluminum alloy twitch,” he says. “In challenging markets, quality is king. That mostly drove my choice.”
Representatives from the East Montgomery County Improvement District (EMCID) were on-site for the groundbreaking. “We’re excited to welcome Levitated Metals to East Montgomery County. The company provides a very unique service, one that’s environmentally conscious,” says Frank McCrady, EMCID president and CEO.
Shah says he selected the greater Houston area for the plant because of its proximity to supply and demand, its busy container port and strong manufacturing workforce. Interstate Highway 10, I-45 and I-69 are main thoroughfares for aluminum shipments into the Southeast United States. “We are centrally located to a number of large auto shredders,” he says, “and on the main thoroughfare that feeds the automotive industry in the Southeast with aluminum from Monterrey, Mexico.”
Shah adds that Levitated is hoping to take advantage of backhaul opportunities into Mexico.
The company will be hiring for marketing and operations positions later in the first quarter, he says.
Representatives from the company and construction team were present for the groundbreaking, as were neighbors from surrounding businesses, the Greater East Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and several local aluminum suppliers.