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

Reporting period: 2021-06-01 to 2022-11-30

The CROCODILE project has showcased 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 has demonstrated 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 has provided a zero-waste strategy for important waste streams rich in Co such as batteries. A lesson learned in the case of the treatment of the black-mass from L-ion batteries is that this strategy involves the recovery, not only of the Co, but also of other valuable metals such as Ni, Mn and Li, the reuse of the residual black mass (cake) after the leaching process, and the recycling of the several solvents involved in the different technologies (DES, extractants) in order to have an economically sustainable process. CROCODILE project has produced a first of a kind economically and environmentally viable mobile 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.

Additionally, the following specific objectives have been achieved: Identify new secondary waste streams rich in cobalt; Optimise the pre-treatment step of secondary waste rich in Co by advanced mechanical, wet mechanical process and pyrometallurgy; Scale up the bio-processing route for primary resources; Develop a detailed market analysis and business models; Screen all the regulatory barriers and provide a bottleneck analysis and a regulatory roadmap; Engage with civil society that includes local and international NGOs
Overview of the results:

- Demonstrate scaled-up innovative and integrated technologies capable of enhancing the efficiency of existing recovery processes
- Develop a new mobile pilot with the capability of producing cobalt metal to enable new business opportunities and expand the business across the EU
- Assess the performance of the CROCODILE value chains from the environmental, economic and technical point of view
- Spread the gained knowledge to the relevant audience: boost awareness, acceptance and trust of society in CROCODILE’ achievement
- Arrange and set up the post-project life of the CROCODILE solution, based on market analysis, strong value chain and business plan
- To optimise the pre-treatment step of secondary waste rich in cobalt by advanced mechanical, wet mechanical process and pyrometallurgy in order to remove all the organic fraction, to extract valuable materials like lithium
and graphite, to obtain a high-quality cobalt concentrate from different Co-bearing sources

The innovative CROCODILE flowsheet has found a possible exploitation route through the realization of plants as EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contractor for the treatment of spent black mass powder in order to recover cobalt. Two commercialisation strategies are under consideration: 1. Licensing of technology: the (external) company building the plant would pay a license fee (exclusive or non-exclusive) in addition to the construction cost. 2. Joint venture: the partners involved in the KERdecide to collaborate by setting up a new company and setting themselves the goal of creating an industrial plant together. A multilateral agreement has been signed at the end of the project by the partners involved in this development for future exploitation.

Concerning dissemination, several local events and high-level multi-stakeholder transition arena have been organized during the project to facilitate civil society engagement and social license to operate. Also, communication activities have been developed: videos, symposiums, conferences, clustering workshops and scientific papers. Details can be found in public deliverables D8.2 D10.5 D10.6 and D10.7.
The CROCODILE system is 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 focused 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 through the validated pilot, leading to expanding the business across the EU after the project is finished
• 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