Alameda, Calif.-based Aqua Metals, the creator of the innovative lead-acid recycling technology AquaRefining, has partnered with Dallas-based automotive battery distributor Interstate Batteries to open the world’s first AquaRefinery, which will help reinvent the process for recycling lead-acid batteries.
AquaRefining is quite different from the Bronze Age technology of smelting, which is notably the most common way to recycle lead. Instead of using blast or reverb furnaces operating at 2,500 degrees Celsius to create a base metal, Aqua uses a water-based process to dissolve lead compounds. This non-hazardous biodegradable clear liquid combined with electrolyzing electrochemically stimulates the lead compounds to create a very high purity of lead, which virtually has no pollution associated with it.
“AquaRefining is almost equivalent to what Cloud computing did to the mainframe computer,” says Aqua Metals Chief Commercial Officer Steve Cotton. “This process allows us to distribute environmentally safe and clean processing of used batteries, just like the Internet allows us to distribute the processing of information.”
Slated to open in July, Aqua’s first AquaRefinery facility will be located in Nevada’s Tahoe-Reno Industrial Complex, where it will take in around 55,000 tonnes of batteries annually and put out approximately 30,000 tonnes of lead per year.
“Aqua Metals has been on a fast track for technology design and financing,” says Cotton. “We’ve just announced this incredible partnership with Interstate Batteries that includes an investment, which will provide us with working capital to help take us across the country.”
With this partnership, Interstate will invest approximately $10 million into Aqua and provide the company with more than a million automotive and other lead-acid batteries to use as feedstock for its AquaRefineries.
“At Interstate, we are constantly seeking out innovation and looking to the future,” says Grant Dismore, Interstate Batteries’ vice president of Supply Chain Management. “We are a value-driven organization, and our two main values are excellence and courage. We are entering a new and different space that’s very intriguing, and there is a fair amount of work that needs to be done. We are very excited for this opportunity and the potential it has for the industry overall.”
Interstate has more than 200 distributors around the country, which sell over 16,000 different types of batteries, most of which are automotive. Last year, the company recycled 24.9 million automotive batteries, which is more than its annual selling total of approximately 17.5 million batteries.
Both Aqua and Interstate have a goal of reducing one of the biggest costs within the industry: hauling tractor trailers full of very heavy batteries and lead across the country.
“We believe that AquaRefining has the opportunity to change the way the base metal energy storage process works,” says Cotton. “In 10 years or so, we are hoping that will be the case and that the net result is better environmental economics for everyone involved.”