Fairfield ‒ The first company in the United States to produce a mix of nickel and cobalt from metal scrap and electronics waste will begin production by year’s end on LeSaint Drive.
Recycler Nth Cycle has leased a 21,000-square-foot empty warehouse for electro-extraction production and is in the process of bringing in needed equipment.
The Massachusetts-based firm chose Fairfield as its first plant location.
“Ohio drew us, in general, because a lot of our clients are located in and around the state. Fairfield, in particular, had the type of facility we were looking for,” Megan O’Connor, co-founder and chief executive officer of the 6-year-old company.
Nth Cycle purchases materials from regional battery manufacturers that have been shredded into black mass – comprised of crushed and shredded batteries that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill or sent overseas to be processed.
The black mass contains mixtures of valuable metals including lithium, manganese, cobalt and nickel.
Using its patented, electro-extraction processor – the Oyster – the waste is placed in a solution. Specific metals are then extracted using a series of electrified filters, producing a nickel-cobalt product, mixed hydroxide precipitate. It’s called MHP.
The MHP – over 90 percent nickel and cobalt – is used in the production of lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles, cell phones, laptop computers, weed whackers and potentially critically metals used in the defense industry.
Nth Cycle does not produce batteries, only critical metals that manufacturers use to create the batteries. Its product, MHP, is sold to automakers, battery producers and consumer electronics manufacturers.
The city did not require Nth Cycle to obtain any special permits to operate in the city. Both the city’s building and fire departments have talked with Nth Cycle officials about their operations. Those discussions are continuing and Nth Cycle has sent fire officials documents about its process, products and materials used.
“Any materials that are considered hazardous are under strict regulations and permitting procedures which our team is well aware of,” O’Conner said in an email.
“We are refining the materials to create a circular economy of battery waste which is 44 percent cleaner than traditional recycling as it stands today. We’re also planning to utilize the waste byproducts to ensure a closed loop process – examples include aqueous solutions recycling and hydrogen as a possible power source.”
Mineral and metal manufacturing is a key requirement for domestic production through the federal Inflation Reduction Act.
“As the world becomes increasingly reliant on the critical metals that are the backbone of an electrified economy, it’s clear the sourcing of those materials must be as clean and efficient as the future we imagine,” O’Connor said.
“A clean, unfettered and cost-efficient supply chain of nickel and cobalt – or MHP – not only accelerates our path to that future, but it establishes the United States as a global leader in that movement.”
Nth Cycle expects to refine about 1,200 tons of material annually with a workforce of about 10. It is investing “tens of millions” in the Fairfield plant, according to officials.
“We’re excited to have a company in our city that’s the only one in the country doing what they do,” said Mayor Mitch Rhodus, calling the company’s work ‘cutting-edge.’
“Fairfield’s industries have been heavy in automotive manufacturing since Fisher Body. We are excited to continue to be part of the innovation occurring with electric vehicles.”