Battery materials technology company Sicona Battery Technologies Pty Ltd has executed a non-binding heads of agreement (HoA) with the 100% owned Swedish subsidiary of TSXV listed Leading Edge Materials Corp.
Sicona founder and CEO, Christiaan Jordaan, said the HoA lays out the path for the establishment of a Sweden based 50/50 Joint Venture targeting the production of advanced natural graphite and silicon-graphite-carbon composite active anode materials using natural graphite from the Woxna Graphite mine as feedstock to offer the European lithium-ion battery manufacturing industry a secure and sustainable supply of high-performance anode materials.
Mr Jordaan said The JV is a direct fit for the fully built and permitted Woxna Graphite mine in Sweden and plans for a vertically integrated production from mine to active anode materials utilizing a low carbon footprint thermal purification process, as recently reported in a Preliminary Economic Assessment study published by Leading Edge Materials.
He said Sicona believes that the existing Woxna mine and developed downstream processes together with Sicona’s innovative technology offers the opportunity to deliver a secure and sustainable supply of high-performance battery materials for the European battery industry. Sicona is commercialising innovative silicon-graphite-carbon composite battery anode and binder process technology and materials, developed and perfected over the last ten years at the Australian Institute for Innovative Materials (AIIM) at the University of Wollongong.
Sicona’s current generation silicon-graphite composite anode materials deliver 50% to 100% higher capacity than conventional “graphite-only” materials and as a result, its cell producer customers can unlock more than 50% higher cell energy density than current Li-ion batteries thereby increasing electric vehicle range whilst reducing the cost and the time it takes to charge.
The global lithium battery opportunity is growing rapidly with more than 4TWh (equivalent to 4,000 gigawatt sized factories) of announced cell production requiring in excess of 4,000,000 tonnes of anode materials per annum.
Due to its improved storage capacity, silicon graphite composite anode materials attract higher selling prices, >US$15,000 per tonne, compared with conventional graphite anode materials between US$7,000 and US$15,000 per tonne. However, due to the higher capacity of silicon graphite composites the cost per capacity unit ($ / KWh) becomes lower for battery cell manufacturers, driving an increased interest to transition into these materials over the future.
The HoA lays out certain work packages with the ultimate objective being a Sweden based advanced anode materials production facility targeting an annual production of up to 20,000 tonnes per year of multiple active anode materials products using Woxna graphite feedstock and other complementary suitable feedstocks such as externally sourced silicon and other carbon or graphite materials utilizing Sicona’s significant proprietary IP and know-how.
Key points of the JV as envisioned in the HoA:
- The establishment of a Swedish corporation owned 50/50 by Sicona and Leading Edge Materials to operate the JV out of Sweden;
- The design, funding and launch of a 500 tonnes per annum stage 1 commercial demonstration plant at a suitable location from the Woxna Graphite mine to produce multiple active anode materials products for advanced customer qualification trials;
- Appropriate feasibility study for a 7,000 to 20,000 tonnes per annum full scale commercial production facility;
- Funding, building and operation of a full scale commercial production facility;
- Leading Edge Materials’ 100% owned subsidiary Woxna Graphite AB to enter an offtake agreement with the JV to sell it all of its graphite concentrate production on a graphite related all in cost basis plus a 30% margin, with a cap at the price equivalent to an appropriate graphite pricing benchmark less 15% (the “Off-take Agreement”);
- The JV to be granted a non-exclusive, non-transferable, non-sublicensable license for Sicona’s IP to produce carbon coated graphite based and silicon-graphite-carbon based active anode materials.
- JV to retain exclusivity over the IP in Sweden, with additional timelines proposed to prohibit the licensing of the IP within Europe to other parties; and
- A 12 month exclusivity period during which the parties are prohibited from soliciting alternative transactions to the proposed JV and must deal exclusively with each other (the “Exclusivity Provision”).
The establishment of the JV is subject to Sicona and Leading Edge Materials entering into a definitive binding joint venture agreement governing the Swedish JV corporation and together with the Off-take Agreement and the License Agreements, the Off-take Agreement and the License Agreements and completion of satisfactory due diligence and receipt of all necessary board and regulatory approvals
From our Australian base, Sicona has its eyes firmly set on deploying commercial-scale production plants in Europe and North America and this proposed joint venture with Leading Edge Materials is a significant step in achieving those goals,” Mr Jordaan said.
“We are very excited to be involved in the next stages of project development with Filip and his team at Leading Edge Materials. It is an endorsement of Sicona’s value proposition in vertically integrating local supply chain projects to produce next generation final anode materials.
“ The two companies share the same goals and values in the sustainable development of better performing anodes and disrupting the control of Asian controlled supply chains with local European made anode material products.
“Our work has already shown Woxna’s thermally purified natural graphite outperformed similar trials using natural graphite reference materials, which bodes well for our planned next stages of work with Leading Edge.
“The formalisation of this JV will allow Sicona and Leading Edge to commercialize our coating processes and technologies, where Woxna’s spherical purified graphite and Sicona’s carbon coating technology has shown excellent results in producing a conventional natural graphite active anode material, delivering 98% capacity retention after 500 cycles.
“Furthermore, in-house unoptimized trials using Woxna spherical purified graphite to produce silicon-graphite-carbon composite anode materials has delivered promising results in initial cell testing. The test results showed an excellent initial capacity of ~700mAh/g, which is more than 90% higher than conventional graphite anode materials.”