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Full Circle Lithium looks to launch lithium battery fire solution

Patent-pending system can neutralize typically difficult-to-extinguish fires

Carlos Vicens, CEO of Full Circle Lithium. (Courtesy Full Circle Lithium)
Carlos Vicens, CEO of Full Circle Lithium. (Courtesy Full Circle Lithium)

Full Circle Lithium Corp. (FCL) announced last month a leading independent U.S. testing laboratory had confirmed the efficacy of its patent-pending Fire Suppressant Solution (FSS) in neutralizing fires arising from lithium-ion batteries.

FCL (FCLI-X) is a Canadian company operating out of the U.S. state of Georgia where it recently opened a lithium processing and recycling plant.

Founded in the summer of 2022, the company defines itself as a "vertically integrated" lithium products manufacturer and recycling outfit focused on lithium and battery materials reintegration.

The Georgia facility is the first new addition to lithium production capacity in North America in the past 20 years, and FCL is positioning itself as an upstart player in the sector by fulfilling demand for crucial battery-grade raw materials. 

However, the company's fortunes have taken an interesting turn of late following its discovery of FSS technology that has the potential to significantly lower the fire risk associated with lithium-ion batteries.

"Battery fires are a serious and growing problem for the global EV (electric vehicle) and lithium battery industry that require a specially developed lithium chemistry-based fire-fighting solution, not currently available in the market," Carlos Vicens, CEO of Full Circle Lithium, said in press release.

"We believe our FSS may well be a cornerstone fire-fighting solution for this problem."

FCL ramping up lithium processing operations in Georgia

Full Circle Lithium is currently ramping up operations at its Georgia plant, expecting to produce 2,000 tonnes of lithium per annum initially.

The company also has the ability to expand production capacity to 10,000 tonnes – with additional capital investment as required – in anticipation of an expected increase in lithium demand over the coming years.

"FCL is proud to be one of the very few companies in the United States that is fully operational in the lithium extraction, refining and processing business," Tom Currin, chief operating officer of Full Circle Lithium, said. "Our comprehensive operations allow us to have complete control over the entire lithium supply chain, from extraction, refining, and processing the final product."

FCL expects to launch joint venture project to roll out FSS tech 

The promise of the FSS technology comes as an unexpected and serendipitous by-product of Full Circle Lithium's research into the fundamental properties of lithium. The project scope involved in bringing the fire suppressant solution to market is so vast the company intends to create a joint venture to share the financial and operational burden. 

"We never intended to be in this line of business when we started out," Vicens said in an exclusive interview with Sustainable Biz Canada.

"Most likely, after we complete testing, we will partner up at some point (next year) with a fire suppressant solution company such as the likes of Honeywell that have done this before and have the channels and capital resources to push this through a lot faster than we would as a small company."

The resulting spin-off could boost FCL earnings by a significant amount and be of particular benefit to shareholders following the company's listing on the TSX Venture Exchange in September.

FCL has already raised $20 million since its inception last year and expects steady revenue from its Georgia plant in 2024. The company will soon begin hiring additional staff in Ontario and Georgia to shepherd the launch of FSS.

FSS is a breakthrough water-based chemical solution

All lithium-ion batteries are composed of flammable materials and fires can result when a battery is overheated, punctured, or suffers an electrical fault such as a short circuit. Such fires gather momentum due to a chemical-based "thermal pathway" that can ignite lithium-ion batteries and produce catastrophic fires.

This is precisely why Vicens believes his company's fire suppression solution represents a "breakthrough" that has the potential to severely reduce the risk of lithium-ion battery-related fires.

"Our fire solution is water based, which is a huge advantage and improvement on the foam or gel-based solutions that are currently in the market today and don't get into the nooks and crannies of the batteries," Vicens explained. "But because our solution is water based, it penetrates everywhere and that is the great innovation of the FSS solution and it works extraordinarily well.

"Another great thing about our solution is that we make it out of recycled batteries instead of having to source lithium from somewhere else, like China, for example."

As the system is still patent-pending, FCL has chosen not to discuss any more specifics regarding how it works.

Increasing incidence of lithium-ion battery fires

There is mounting evidence of the hazards of difficult-to-extinguish lithium battery fires involving e-scooters, e-bikes, and EVs.

The most spectacular examples of the potential of catastrophic fires have come within the last two years when two major cargo ships have fallen victim to suspected EV battery fires.

In February 2022, the Felicity Ace transport vessel carrying 4,000 EVs sank in the Atlantic as the result of a massive fire. An Oct. 18 article published in the UK's Daily Telegraph reported "lithium-ion batteries were cited as a factor in keeping the fire ablaze." 

In July, the Fremantle Highway caught fire in the North Sea while transporting 3,700 cars from Germany to Egypt, 500 of which were EVs according to K Line, the company operating the vessel. An audio tape of an emergency call released by Dutch broadcaster RTL revealed that a crew member stated "the fire started in the battery of an electric car."

"Lithium batteries are generally safe and unlikely to fail, but only so long as there are no defects and the batteries are not damaged or mistreated," Steve Kerber, vice president and executive director of Underwriters Laboratory’s Fire Safety Research Institute, said.

In June, the Vancouver Sun published a story that revealed Vancouver firefighters answer over 50 calls a year to deal with battery explosions.

This is the context in which FCL's fire suppressant solution is poised to exploit myriad commercial applications, Vicens believes.

"You often see in the news that somebody left either an e-bike or an e-scooter or several scooters charging. They catch fire and all of a sudden there's an explosion and that sets off a major fire," Vicens said.

FCL relies on three distinct lithium processing/recycling operations 

Full Circle Lithium occupies a unique foothold in the lithium industry in that it relies on a multi-tiered recycling, refining and processing business model.

Vicens, together with his long-time friend and business partner Tom Currin, have structured FCL's operations around three distinct subsectors of the lithium market.

"One is what we call midstream recycling. Midstream recycling is when we go to industrial and chemical companies that utilize lithium to manufacture a product and we go on site and extract the lithium from the waste stream that contains lithium chemicals. We then recycle that lithium and we can either sell it back to the company or we can bring it to our plant and produce lithium carbonate," Vicens said.

FCL's second area of business involves the recycling of the lithium found in used or defective batteries "where we can draw lithium and other materials" from the batteries and then sell that back onto the market.

"Our third line of business is what we call our lithium refinery," Vicens explained. "This is not a recycling business. This is a a business that we refine either raw material directly from the ground potentially and/or an intermediate product in the lithium compound world into a final product such as lithium carbonate or lithium chloride potentially."

Apart from the revenue stream it expects to generate from its FSS subsidiary operations, Vicens believes his company's three "complementary lithium-based operations" will allow FCL to benefit both from its ongoing research into the underlying technology while "allowing us to devote our resources accordingly. . .

"We feel we have a good foundation that can generate revenue and cash flow over the short term and build up from there."

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