Lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries are quickly gaining traction as alternatives in the lithium battery space in the North America, and companies like Full Circle Lithium (TSXV:FCLI) are at the epicentre of the revolution.
In line with this, the company’s initial focus on LFP batteries rather than other lithium-ion batteries (NMC/NCA/LCO/etc) gives it a competitive edge compared with its peers in the space.
LFP batteries have a longer life-cycle than lithium-ion batteries, are lower cost and economically sustainable and more importantly are among the safest types of lithium-ion batteries. Moving forward, In line with this, LFP batteries are anticipated to reach a market growth of US$52.7 billion by 2030, up from just $12.5 billion in 2022 and representing a compound annual growth rate of 19.7 per cent.
Headquartered out of Toronto, Ontario, Full Circle Lithium is a U.S.-based lithium products manufacturer and recycler backed by a highly experienced and proven technical team with a fully permitted lithium processing plant in Georgia.
With the company’s ideal location in Georgia, it also notably ranks sixth in the United States for public EV charging stations by providing more than 1,500 individual outlets, which equals more outlets per capita than anywhere in the region.
In an interview with The Market Herald Canada, Carlos Vicens, CEO of Full Circle Lithium, explained that the plant is fully refurbished and fully functioning, and was previously operational in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He said the plant was deactivated in 2012 but that the company brought it back to life and now has a full-fleshed lithium carbonate processing plant.
The company, which went public only in May, has been busy ramping up its efforts and has plenty to look forward to that should also be enticing to investors.
Between its Georgia lithium carbonate plant, and its three-pronged feedstock sourcing, including midstream recycling, LFP battery recycling and the future lithium refinery combined with its experienced team, Full Circle Lithium just might be the full package.
The Georgia lithium plant
Although the plant was mothballed in the early 2010s, the company completed a proof of concept on battery recycling in 2019 and 2020 and is conducting an ongoing process optimization on different lithium-ion batteries.
As it currently stands, Vicens said the plant has a capacity of 2,000 metric tonnes of lithium carbonate capacity, but said the existing infrastructure allows for the potential of 10,000 metric tonnes.
He said that when it comes to lithium carbonate production in the U.S. specifically, there hasn’t been any new production capacity for the past 25 years, making Full Circle Lithium’s plant a new significant potential source of production.
In order to ramp up its production, Vicens said the company is “trying to feed the plant with different kinds of feedstock.” He said the company is focused on short-, medium- and long-term sources of feedstock with midstream recycling being the most exciting short-term source of feedstock. He explained midstream recycling essentially recycles lithium from lithium bearing materials (often called waste) that come from either chemicals or industrial-bearing lithium streams.
As such, Full Circle Lithium works with industrial or chemical companies that have lithium bearing streams and installs a proprietary lithium extraction process, extracts the lithium and then either sells it back to the client at their plant or sends it to its plant in Georgia to produce lithium carbonate and sell it to the market. As the company’s name says, it really is a Full Circle solution.
Since 2019, the company has conducted a wide range of activities at the plant, including:
- Modified plant process flow sheet completed for quick restart
- Raised close to C$15M and went public in May 2023
- Completely refurbished the plant
- Implemented the LEP technology for its midstream recycling and future refinery business
- Discussions with a number of companies with respect to midstream feedstock recycling business – built and installed first demo plant
- Developed a potential game-changing fire suppressant solution for the lithium-ion battery industry
- Continuing with its IP development on all business fronts
The business model
Through its Georgia processing plant, the company’s primary focus is on recycling lithium and processing other high-purity battery materials. Its proprietary front-end lithium extraction process (LEP) and back-end processing technologies know-how enhance and unlock lithium recovery.
All processes are modular and designed to be integrated into existing operations of engineering expertise focused on minimizing raw materials and waste (high recovery) with the lowest carbon intensity level possible.
Already, the process has been demonstrated at pilot scale on numerous industrial lithium byproduct streams and is efficient, continuous and cost-competitive. The plant can take different lithium feedstock – whether it’s lithium chloride or sulfate – and produce battery grade LC. The LIB recycling is in advance stages of demonstration and focused on mitigating the three process safety risks: discharge of batteries, hydrogen/heat generation and fluoride process/recovery.
“LFP batteries today are not a major category in North America, but they will be,” Vicens said, adding that in China two-thirds of its batteries are LFP-based but that in the U.S. it is much less. “LFP batteries will move into the 50 per cent range [in the U.S.] in time.”
While this only includes the LFP EV battery segment – with large projects underway thanks to vehicle manufacturers such as Ford and Tesla – he explained this is expected to expand into other segments such as battery storage, among others.
Similarly, LFP batteries are expected to become a more viable option to power a greater portion of vehicle models, including medium-sized vehicles. If the automotive industry wants to be mainstream, then LFP batteries will become mainstream.
With lithium refineries in the United States and capacity limited, prices of lithium products have generally increased over the past two years and are harder to secure from USA producers, notably top producers such as Albemarle and Livent.
As such, Full Circle Lithium, on the other hand, provides lithium extraction and lithium carbonate production expertise. The company’s experienced team has more than four decades of experience producing lithium precursors from brines, clays, hard-rock and petro-brines and saleable lithium chemicals.
“In our lithium refinery business, we are working with miners and companies to efficiently treat raw material into lithium compounds that can be sold to the market,” Vicens said. He explained that because the company has a significant amount of knowledge on the processing side, Full Circle Lithium believes it can add significant value for these companies that have a need for a team like its own.
“There is a need for new, nimble and adaptive lithium chemical processing companies that can meet the growing need for processing various feedstock and/or precursor raw lithium concentrates and supply the market with battery-grade lithium,” the company stated.
Even though Full Circle Lithium is still a relatively newly listed company, that hasn’t stopped it from being busy since officially listing.
Case in point, its biggest milestones to date have included relaunching the Georgia plant and gearing it up to produce 2,000 metric tons of battery-grade lithium carbonate.
Vicens explained to The Market Herald Canada this was one of the first major milestones the company wanted to achieve, and it also signed a mid-stream recycling contract with a large chemical company in June of this year. In addition to this, Vicens said the first demo plant is being operated and tested.
“We are now working with the client to meet all the necessary specs that come out of the demo plant to produce the lithium compound that they need,” he said, adding that it should happen within the coming months.
Vicens said this is a significant milestone for the company because it is a short-term revenue/cash-flow advantage that should happen by the end of 2023 or Q1 2024.
Perhaps even more impressive is the fact the company has only been public since May, and has been in business for a little more than a year. The fact it is looking to add revenue and generate cash flow so soon will no doubt land Full Circle Lithium on the map of companies to watch for.
In July 2023, the company announced a significant update to its portfolio in that Full Circle Lithium has now developed a proprietary agent for suppressing and extinguishing lithium-based fires (“FSS”).
The company filed a U.S. patent application to project the technology and, given difficulties in containing these kinds of fires, there is a growing need for solutions in order to extinguish LIB fires.
“[Full Circle Lithium believes it has] a game changer not only on the battery processing side, but in battery fire suppressant solutions,” Vicens said.
Because fires starting from lithium-ion batteries have become more prevalent – from being not stored correctly, malfunctioning or otherwise – Vicens said once they catch fire it’s hard to put them out, but it’s even harder to keep the fire from starting again.
“Our fire suppressant solution not only puts the fire out quickly with less water but also keeps the fire out,” he said.
With only four months left to go in 2023, Vicens said the company is in discussions with additional clients related to demo plant build outs and anticipates signing another deal over the next quarter or before year-end for another demo plant.
Vicens said the company is also continuing to work with battery operators and industrial clients that have batteries to add batteries to its feedstock and process through its plant, adding that this is a long-term goal for Full Circle Lithium.
The management team
Carlos Vicens, CEO
Carlos Vicens is CEO and has more than 25 years of global experience in capital markets, corporate development, strategy and investment banking, including mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance.
Vicens previously worked as vice president on a well-known Canadian investment banking mining team and participated in more than $10 billion of merger and acquisition transactions and well over $5 billion in equity and debt issuances. Vicens also has more than 10 years of hands-on C-level experience in the lithium sector, including his previous CFO position.
Thomas Currin, COO and co-founder
Thomas Currin has 40 years of lithium chemical production and process engineering experience, including Dupont and Livent. In 2016, Currin’s engineering team received the Outstanding Partnership Regional Award from the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer. Mr. Currin has built six lithium plants over his career.
Bill Bourcier, CTO and co-founder
Bill Bourcier has worked and consulted with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) for more than 35 years. Bourcier has more than 20 patents and 50 publications resulting including a licensed patent for a process using reverse osmosis to produce marketable silica from geothermal waters. In 2008 he left LLNL to co-found Simbol Mining, a company focused on extracting lithium from geothermal brines
The investment opportunity
If you’re looking for an undervalued stock with plenty of potential, and has the team that will follow through on its deliverables, Full Circle Lithium might be what you’re looking for.
With a current market capitalization of $49 million and a share price of C$0.70, Full Circle Lithium has plenty of growth potential.
The company’s focus on lithium gives it a completely different approach than most competitors. It is focused on lithium, and it has a team of lithium experts with decades of experience. The three-pronged feedstock approach (midstream recycling, battery recycling and lithium refining, as well as its new fire suppressant solution) and its focus on LFP batteries certainly gives it a competitive advantage, as well as its Georgia-based processing plant – giving the company much-needed boots on the ground in U.S. soil.
As Full Circle Lithium gears up for a busy last few months of the year – and with its goal of becoming cash-positive by early 2024 – investors won’t want to miss out.
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