Aqua Metals takes next step in lead recycling

Close up of the first casted ingot.

Close up of the first casted ingot.

Aqua Metals, a lead-acid battery recycling company, announced last week that it has produced the first-ever AquaRefined lead at its Nevada AquaRefinery located in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center (TRIC).

“This is a major milestone – not just for our company, but for the entire industry,” said Stephen Clarke, chairman and CEO of Aqua Metals, in a recent press release. “Our commercial-scale AquaRefining modules have the potential to revolutionize lead recycling and make lead-acid batteries the only truly sustainable battery technology. We are confident that our lead products will exceed the most rigorous industry specifications. I am extremely proud of our entire team for making this dream a reality.”

Aqua Metals celebrated the opening of their 135,000-square-foot Nevada AquaRefinery back in July 2016. At the opening, Clarke explained that lead-acid batteries are 100 percent recyclable; however, it has historically been done through a process called smelting. This is a highly toxic and polluting process in which the batteries are heated at high temperatures to extract the lead. Outside of the United States, smelting is poorly regulated and the process releases air emissions such as greenhouse gases into the environment.

Aqua Metals is working on revolutionizing this process to make it more environmentally friendly.

AquaRefining uses an entirely reusable water-based technology to produce ingots of ultrapure lead. Through its own on-site testing, Aqua Metals has verified that the lead produced in the AquaRefining module is over 99.99 percent pure. The company will send its initial production samples to several U.S. battery manufacturing companies to allow them to conduct their own assessment.

Aqua Metals previously demonstrated the effectiveness of its technology at bench scale, pilot scale and with a single, full-size electrolyzer. However, this new development demonstrates the effectiveness of AquaRefining at a commercial-scale.

“This is the most critical step in the commissioning process of the Nevada AquaRefinery,” Clarke said in the press release. “Over the coming weeks we plan to fully integrate the front-end battery-breaking portion of the facility.”

Aqua Metals was founded in 2014 and is headquartered in Alameda, Calif., where they manufacture their AquaRefining modules used to recycle lead. The company has built and delivered a total of five modules to its Nevada AquaRefinery so far and they plan to install and commission a total of 16 modules. Once all 16 modules are installed, the AquaRefinery will be able to process 80 metric tones, or 2,240 pounds, of lead per day. Aqua Metals anticipates that the Nevada AquaRefinery will reach its initial production capacity within the coming months.

Steve Cotton, chief commercial officer of Aqua Metals, explained in a prior phone interview with NNBW, that Aqua Metals plans to build additional AquaRefineries in the future.

Aqua Metals has had financial backing from both public and private entities.

The company received a $10 million loan guarantee from Nevada’s USDA Rural Development program in 2015. They also formed strategic partnerships with Interstate Batteries and Battery Systems International to supply batteries to be recycled at their AquaRefinery.

For more information about Aqua Metals, visit


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment