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first of a kind commercial Compact system for the efficient Recovery Of CObalt Designed with novel Integrated LEading technologies

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CROCODILE (first of a kind commercial Compact system for the efficient Recovery Of CObalt Designed with novel Integrated LEading technologies)

Reporting period: 2019-12-01 to 2021-05-31

The CROCODILE project will showcase innovative metallurgical systems based on advanced pyro-, hydro-, bio-, iono- and electrometallurgy technologies for the recovery of cobalt (Co) and the production of Co metal and upstream products from a wide variety of secondary and primary European resources. CROCODILE will demonstrate the synergetic approaches of the considered technologies and the integration of the innovative metallurgical systems within existing recovery processes of Co from primary and secondary sources at different locations in Europe, to enhance their efficiency, improve their economic and environmental values, and will provide a zero-waste strategy for important waste streams rich in Co such as batteries. Additionally, CROCODILE will produce a first of a kind economically and environmentally viable mobile commercial metallurgical system based on advanced hydrometallurgical and electrochemical technologies able to produce Co metal from black mass containing Co from different sources of waste streams such as spent batteries and catalysts.
The key objectives of the project are:
1) Build the CROCODILE 1st of its kind commercial compact mobile system with a capacity of up to 200kg of Co metal per day
2) Identify new secondary waste streams rich in cobalt
3) Optimise the pre-treatment step of secondary waste rich in Co by advanced mechanical, wet mechanical process and pyrometallurgy
4) Fine tune the CROCODILE recovery process, from economic and environmental point of view, resulting in Co purity of 99.95% - 98% metal recovery from black mass
5) Scale up the bio-processing route for primary resources using a 100 L bioreactor
6) Develop a detailed market analysis and business models
7) Screen all the regulatory barriers and provide a bottleneck analysis and a regulatory roadmap
8) Engage with civil society that includes local and international NGOs
Main results achieved so far:

- Co content in secondary resources has been increased through different technical approaches by WP2 partners, most of the KPIs being already achieved (for example: Cobalt detection and sorting achieved at 1 t/h (TRL 8);
extendable at 5 t/h).

- Over 1g Co/L in the leachate was achieved by using a 3-cycle approach in the up-scaling of bioleaching tests carried out to using Tiebagui limonite in WP3 related to primary resources.

- WP3 processes for secondary materials (Leaching, L/L extraction and EW) have been integrated and the flowsheet optimized to achieve the goals concerning Co metal production (also Ni recovery considered), allowing the definition of the experimental conditions for the validation process at the pilot and obtaining the information required for both the basic and the detailed engineering.

- Detailed engineering completed, all quotations received and ready for the purchasing of the components for the construction of the pilot to be used for the validation work in WP6.

- In what market analysis and business models relates, the main technologies that will be brought to the market by CROCODILE will be the CROCODILE system for the treatment of black mass from secondary waste streams, and the novel physical treatment technologies (a combination of pyro and hydro) to increase the amount of cobalt in the black mass. The market deployment of the integrated CROCODILE solution will be guided by the market analysis and an improved business model to be finished by the end of the project (D9.5 and D9.7) probably underpinned by the idea of selling a service or “pay-per-use” instead of an asset. The results obtained from the stakeholder analysis (D8.1) will also be used to identify the potential investors, whose business can benefit from the CROCODILE innovation.

- CROCODILE will screen the regulations affecting its value chain, resulting in the release of a bottleneck analysis report highlighting the best practices to incentivise consumers handing in their waste batteries for recycling. The partners of CROCODILE acting as collectors in the value chain will use those models to exceed the 45% goal in collection rate of portable batteries. All this information is being collected and evaluated and will feed D2.5.

- Concerning engaging with civil society (local and international NGOs to obtain a social licence to operate and codevelop the CROCODILE solution), in addition to the inter- and transdisciplinary high-level expert panel set up and three meetings organized in collaboration with several other EU H2020 projects during M1 to M18 period, a bottom-up activity is being developed where specific partners organize local events with citizens living in the neighbourhood of heavy industry operations. Unfortunately, due to COVID 19, only one local event was organized by COM (January 20, 2020) and all local events have been on hold since March 2020. In what the high-level multi-stakeholder transition arena concerns, two events were organized, the Green transition challenged by the metal supply chain (March 12, 2020) and the Recycling mining waste – a new business? (February 28, 2021).
The CROCODILE system will be based on the combination of the state of the art pyrometallurgy, bioleaching, deep eutectic solvent leaching, liquid-liquid extraction and EW, realising a unique architecture of high-performance processing.
CROCODILE will contribute to the expected impact as detailed in the DoA (Section 2.1 Annex 1, Part B). The CROCODILE partners will focus their activities to recover cobalt from EU resources such as electric vehicle batteries in the automotive sector, portable Lithium Ion batteries mainly in the consumer electronics sector, Co-bearing nickel laterite ores in the mining sector and other sources (e.g. catalysts).
CROCODILE actively contributes to the following impacts mentioned in the work programme:
• Contribute to achieving the targets of the EIP on Raw Materials, particularly in terms of innovative pilot actions for innovative production of raw materials
• Improve economic viability and market potential that will be gained through the pilot, leading to expanding the business across the EU after the project is finished
Update: The preliminary conclusion of our market analysis in WP9 is that mobile plants will not be easy to sell or rent. Most black mass “producers” will have much higher outputs of black mass at the end of our project (e.g. ACC approx. 3.000 tons per year or Saubermacher approx. 5.000 tons per year) and therefore would need several mobile plants permanently. But putting several mobile plants permanently on one location does not make sense at all. Therefore, it is more logic to install one stationary plant with a much bigger capacity tailored to the output of the black mass of the specific plant ideally at the same location (approx. 10-30 locations in Europe alone).
• Optimise metal production […] from primary and/or secondary resources, while keeping competitive process performance in terms of resource and energy efficiency
• Push the EU to the forefront in the area of metals processing and refining technologies and solutions through generated know how […]
• Create added value and new jobs in metallurgy, equipment manufacturing, downstream industries
• Improve the environmental […], health and safety performance of the operations
• Improve the awareness, acceptance and trust of society in a sustainable raw materials production in EU