Evolution Energy (ASX: EV1) is climbing the lucrative graphite value chain after successful testwork in the US opened the door to advanced battery and nuclear customers.
The first stage of testwork confirmed extremely low levels of Boron and Molybdenum in graphite fines concentrate. The two elements are considered difficult to remove from concentrates and impact finished-product performance.
The testwork opens pathways for use of the 100% owned Chilalo Project's graphite in value-add markets including premium performance batteries and nuclear-grade graphite, said Managing Director Phil Hoskins.
The majority of flake graphite available on the market has high Molybdenum concentrations and finding suitable Molybdenum levels "poses a significant challenge for the advanced battery materials industry," according to Evolution Energy's US technology partner.
Alongside its application in batteries, low-Boron feedstock is preferred for nuclear applications. The primary use case for ultra-high-purity graphite is for Pebble Bed Reactors that consume up to 60,000 tonnes of purified graphite per annum.
Graphite concentrate prices typically range from US$700 to US$3,500 a tonne.
Low-Molybdenum purified graphite for use in the alkaline battery industry currently sells for US$8,000 to US$18,000 a tonne.
In the nuclear industry, qualified graphite sells for US$30,000 a tonne.
Evolution Energy has been working with its US technology partner for over five months, exploring a range of high-value, downstream applications for graphite produced from the Chilalo project.
Evolution Energy is seeking a formal partnership to utilise the advanced technologies and production facilities of its partner. Through this, the company hopes to produce samples for product qualification initiatives with battery manufacturers.
Evolution Energy expects to announce the results of battery anode testwork in the coming weeks.
The testwork is assessing the purification levels and yields of a finished coated, spherical graphite product - a key component for lithium-ion batteries.
If successful, Evolution Energy seek to test the performance of the battery, how it performs over time and specific end-use analysis.
Evolution Energy is actively exploring opportunities to run up the lucrative graphite value chain in the lead up to a final investment decision for the Chilalo Graphite Project in the second-half of 2022.
In May, the company signed a binding offtake agreement with China’s Yichang Xincheng Graphite Co (YXGC) for the sale of 30,000 tonnes pa of coarse flake graphite for a minimum of 3 years - worth approximately 35% of Chilalo's production.
The partnership with YXGC will also seek to explore a downstream joint-venture in Europe, combining Chilalo's high quality graphite with YXGC's technology.
In the near-term, Evolution Energy expects to deliver an updated DFS and front-end engineering design by September.
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