Invests in Vertical Integration with ALD coating equipment for New Pilot Facility Program
TORONTO, ON / ACCESSWIRE / Wednesday, March 31, 2021 / Gratomic Inc. ("GRAT", "Gratomic" or the "Company") (TSXV:GRAT) (OTCQX:CBULF) (FRANKFURT:CB82) is pleased to announce its plans to build a pilot facility (the "Facility") to internally process up to 1,000 tons of SG16 battery grade anode materials for the booming Electronic Vehicle ("EV") battery market in the second half of 2021. This initial pilot facility, if successful (as demonstrated by internal testing), is expected to be followed by the construction of a demonstration facility, which will process up to approximately 2,000 tons per annum beginning in 2022 and up to 20,000 tons per annum once the demonstration facility is converted into a full final production phase. The facility will be located at the Company's owned warehouse located at the Port of Luderitz Bay. While Gratomic completes the development of the pilot facility graphitic material will be shipped to Forge Nano, Inc. ("Forge Nano") for Atomic Layer Deposition ("ALD") coating in preparation for use as a battery anode material. This processing facility will enable the Company to take our raw graphite material to the final stages required for use in a battery anode application.
Forge Nano's ALD coating technology for use in lithium-ion battery anode applications, could result in significant gains in performance to Gratomic's SG16 battery graphite compounds, as per our press release dated October28. The Company has therefore entered into a cooperative agreement with Forge Nano, a leading expert in the field of battery materials (www.forgenano.com), to not only undertake the ALD coating process but also to assist in the planning and development of GRAT's aforementioned processing facility. Battery anode materials generally consists of three stages of processing: micronization, spheronization and coating. Forge Nano specializes in the final coating stage with their patented ALD coating technology. This facility will work in tandem with the Company's Aukam vein graphite project, which is now in its commissioning phase (See Company's press release dated March 29).
Procurement of the equipment system capable of applying ALD coatings for use in the Facility will be released by Forge Nano upon the successful completion of various performance and cost milestones (See "Scope of Collaboration" below).
Gratomic's Ludertiz Bay property covers 6,564 square meters and contains three buildings including a large warehouse, a double garage with six storerooms/workshops and a single garage with two offices and a store-room. The Company intends to use the warehouse for the ALD processing and packaging of its graphite. The property provides Gratomic with waterfront access to the Port of Luderitz and to container facilities, enabling direct delivery to ports in Europe, Asia and North America.
About Forge Nano Inc.
Forge Nano is an innovative and advanced company that brings to the table disruptive technological advancements and proprietary engineering techniques that have the potential to drive the entire Li-ion and graphite industry ahead in new and exciting ways.
The proprietary ALD technology employed by Forge Nano boosts battery performance by enabling li-ion batteries to better withstand higher temperatures and faster cycle rates.
Solutions are custom built for performance and reliability, with their technology enabling angstrom-thick coatings to be applied with unmated precision, consistency, and efficiency. The company's systems apply lean manufacturing principles that enable fast and economical atomic level coatings for a variety of surface engineering practices.
Forge Nano has compiled a comprehensive IP portfolio that provides full benefits to its partners and Licensees for battery applications. The company also has a wide selection of forward-thinking partners, ranging from Volkswagen, Air Liquide, and LG Technology Ventures to Mitsui Kinzoku and SBI Investments.
ALD - Improving Performance at the atomic level
ALD is a surface engineering technique in which chemicals called precursors are applied to a particle or material, applying an angstrom-thick coating one atomic layer at a time. The nano-coating technique uniformly encapsulates particles and objects, leading to pinhole free coatings. This nanometer-thick ceramic coating helps anode-cathode components avoid long term electrode-electrolyte degradation. This helps to lengthen battery life by protecting against high temperatures and fast cycle rates, leading to safer and more versatile EV batteries. These nano-coatings also enable the safe and profitable use of several new high-capacity and high-voltage chemistries that were previously unavailable. The coatings are stable in virtually every environment, help batteries run at faster cycles and disperse heat better, and the coating process costs less than $0.50 per Kg, meaning that the nano-coating process leads to a higher quality and more profitable product at a relatively inexpensive cost. With the vein graphite sourced from the Aukum project combined with the ALD coating GRAT expects to have an extremely high-quality final product that will give the Company a strong competitive advantage.
Global graphite shortage and critical minerals
As depicted in the Benchmark Minerals graph below, looming substantial graphite shortages are predicted to become a global issue for the EV battery industry beginning as early as 2023. The Company is currently licensed to increase production according to market needs, up from its original plan of 20,000 tonnes per annum, and its processing facility has been engineered in a modular design to accommodate a rapid expansion. Even with a slight decrease in graphite prices in 2020 due to repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the price of spherical graphite ("SPG") remained stable. The United States, has been so impacted by this graphite shortage, that in October of 2020, the US Presidential administration (Federal Register, 2020), along with the Government of Canada, declared the mineral shortage a state of emergency and added Graphite to their critical minerals list (Government of Canada, 2021). GRAT continues to forge ahead with its plan to introduce a cleaner alternative SPG anode material to the global EV market.
Pilot facility system specification criteria (provided by GRAT):
Throughput: To be determined as part of the ALD coating study work. Initially targeting 1,000 tons/year in pilot stage and 2,000 tons/year in demonstration facility
Handling: Manual Loading
Scope of Collaboration
Forge Nano has been commissioned to apply ALD to the materials supplied by GRAT for evaluation and confirmation of ALD-enhancement, to be completed within 6 months of the Agreement, which is dated to start March 29th. Upon successful demonstration of the Proof-of-Concept, GRAT will purchase the pilot equipment from Forge Nano with a targeted installation date for 2021.
Once the successful qualification and demonstration of the Pilot Equipment is completed, GRAT and Forge Nano will enter into a commercial development project in which GRAT will provide sufficient quantities of material to Forge Nano for building, qualification and operational studies for the commercial application of the ALD system. This system will be based on the capability of processing up to 20,000 tons per year. Specific final design elements and pricing to be determined.
Upon the successful implementation of the Commercial Development program, GRATOMIC will purchase Commercial Equipment for integration of ALD into their 2022 commercial production facility intended to produce 20,000 ton/year of ALD-coated graphite. Final design and pricing to be determined.
"The ALD enhancement process may turn out to become a breakthrough on battery anode technology, and the unique technical features of Aukam's vein graphite makes it the best candidate to test this concept", says Armando Farhate, COO & Head of Graphite Sales & Marketing.
Arno Brand, CEO & President states, "We are pleased to collaborate with Forge Nano on the implementation of the ALD program, which will optimize our vein graphite at the atomic level, essentially establishing a highly effective and desirable battery anode material for the EV battery market in a truly environmentally conscious manner."
Gratomic wishes to emphasize that no Preliminary Economic Analysis ("PEA"), Preliminary Feasibility Study or Feasibility Study has been completed to support any level of production. In fact, no mineral resources let alone mineral reserves demonstrating economic viability and technical feasibility, have been delineated on the Aukam property.
The Company appointed Dr. Ian Flint to complete a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) on the Aukam Processing plant. The study, its recommendations, and their subsequent implementation, will provide conclusions and recommendation at a PEA level of comfort relating to the scale up of the existing processing plant to a commercial scale processing facility that will provide the desired concentrate grades and production rates. A preliminary economic assessment is preliminary in nature, it includes inferred mineral resources that are considered too speculative geologically to have economic considerations applied to them that would enable them to be categorized as mineral reserves, and there is no certainty that the preliminary economic assessment will be realized.
Gratomic wishes to emphasize that the supply of graphite is conditional on Gratomic being able to bring the Aukam project into a production phase, and for any graphite being produced to meet certain technical and mineralization requirements. Gratomic continues to move its business towards production and as part of its business plan, expects to obtain a National Instrument 43-101 Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects technical report to help it ascertain the economics of the Aukam project.
No mineral resources, let alone mineral reserves demonstrating economic viability and technical feasibility, have been delineated on the Aukam Property. The Company is not in a position to demonstrate or disclose any capital and/or operating costs that may be associated with its processing plant or the Facility.
The Company advises that it has not based its production decision on even the existence of mineral resources let alone on a feasibility study of mineral reserves, demonstrating economic and technical viability, and, as a result, there may be an increased uncertainty of achieving any particular level of recovery of minerals or the cost of such recovery, including increased risks associated with developing a commercially mineable deposit.
Historically, such projects have a much higher risk of economic and technical failure. There is no guarantee that production will begin as anticipated or at all or that anticipated production costs will be achieved.
Failure to commence production would have a material adverse impact on the Company's ability to generate revenue and cash flow to fund operations. Failure to achieve the anticipated production costs would have a material adverse impact on the Company's cash flow and future profitability.
Steve Gray, P. Geo. and a Director of the Company has reviewed and approved the scientific and technical information in this press release and is the Company's "Qualified Person" as defined by National Instrument 43-101 - Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects.
About Gratomic Inc.
Established in 2014, Gratomic is focused on the proposed production of low-cost mine to market carbon-neutral, eco-friendly, high purity vein graphite to be provided to the EV and Energy Storage supply chains. Gratomic is anticipating full operational capabilities in 2021.
Gratomic is in the process of solidifying its plans for micronization and spheronization of its clean Aukam graphite. This significant milestone is a small, additional step in the Company's proposed eco-friendly processing cycle and is intended to allow it to meet ideal North American battery grade standards for use in Li-ion battery anodes.
The Company plans to deliver mine-to-market traceability and guaranteed quality control. This will be accomplished by providing documented tracking on all graphite generated at its flagship Aukam Graphite Project. The tracking will begin at Aukam and will be verified at every stage during transport.
Two off-take purchase agreements are currently held for lump-vein graphite sourced from Gratomic's Aukam Graphite Project in Namibia, Africa. Fulfillment of the contracts is anticipated to begin in Q1 of 2021. The agreements exist with TODAQ and Phu Sumika (See press releases dated Jan. 25th).
For more information: visit the website at www.gratomic.ca or contact:
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Forward Looking Statements:
This news release contains forward-looking statements, which relate to future events or future performance and reflect management's current expectations and assumptions. Such forward-looking statements reflect management's current beliefs and are based on assumptions made by and information currently available to the Company. Investors are cautioned that these forward-looking statements are neither promises nor guarantees and are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause future results to differ materially from those expected. These forward-looking statements are made as of the date hereof and, except as required under applicable securities legislation, the Company does not assume any obligation to update or revise them to reflect new events or circumstances. All of the forward-looking statements made in this press release are qualified by these cautionary statements and by those made in our filings with SEDAR in Canada (available at www.sedar.com)