CONVERTING RECOVERED CARBON BLACK INTO BATTERY-GRADE GRAPHITE FOR VEHICLE ELECTRIFICATION

Sustainable Development Goals: Goal 3 - Good Health and Well-being, Goal 4 - Quality Education, Goal 5 - Gender Equality, Goal 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation, Goal 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 9 - Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Goal 10 - Reduced Inequalities, Goal 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production Organizations Involved: Black Cat Carbon Engineering, CRR, CECEP Services: Plant Design & Engineering, Due Diligence, Supply Chain Management, Carbon Management, Component Supply

The Challenge:

China is the world's largest industrial manufacturer and the world's biggest polluter of the environment and it has committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2060, an ambitious goal matched by enormous investments that are reshaping the nation’s energy system. Its growth since joining the World Trade Organization is simply astonishing as is the waste it produces. 

According to statistics, in 2019, China’s waste tires generated about 330 million, equivalent to a weight of more than 10 million tons, and the amount of waste tires generated by scrapping every year is still growing at a rate of 6% to 8%.

Led by the circular economy policy, in recent years, China’s comprehensive utilization of scrap tires is an industry that has developed rapidly. The recycling rate of waste tires has increased year by year. In 2019, approximately 1,500 enterprises utilized scrap tires which accounted for the recycling of nearly 200 million waste tires (60% recycling rate). Among them, the volume of tire retreading is about 5 million casings that has been achieved, the production of recycled rubber is about 3 million tons, the production of rubber powder is about 1 million tons, and the volume of thermal cracking treatment using pyrolysis has now increased to approximately 1 million tons.

The majority of scrap tires were recycled to produce rubber and rubber powders which accounted for more than 50% of the total annual recycled volume. Thermal cracking using pyrolysis technologies has accounted for a very low percentage of recycling due to the pyrolysis ban in China and tire retreading accounted for approximately 10%.

Tire retreading is the preferred way to recycle tires and is considered the best reuse practice. Retreading saves 75% of the raw material used in scrap tire recycling. Retreading also saves approximately 50% of the energy of making a new tire and a retreaded tire offers significant savings to the consumer of approximately 50% along with milage expectations equivalent to a new tire.

Superior performance with cost-effectiveness, why is China’s tire retreading rate so low? At present, the lack of mandatory retreading standards for domestic tires, the existence of heavy vehicles “a drive to waste” situation, tire wear to the end of the considered life of tires, makes the replacement of the tire casing/carcass to lower quality which cannot meet the retreading requirements.

On the other hand, people’s concept of tire retreading also needs to be changed. At present, the use of retreaded tires in the field of passenger cars in China is almost zero. Industry analysis tells us that many Chinese passenger car owners still have doubts about the quality of retreaded tires, and most choose to simply repair or replace the tires after damage, which also leads to waste tires not being reasonably reused.

The Solution:

A strategic new industry is developing in China despite the lack of well organizational waste collection infrastructure, and industry stakeholders are very optimistic about the market prospects of the comprehensive utilization of waste tires as a resource in the circular economy. In fact, along with the national environmental protection policies continuing to increase alongside more stringent industry regulations, waste tires are now being viewed as “black gold”.

As the tire recycling industry begins to now adopt a circular economy, tire pyrolysis recycling plants are now under serious consideration across the country. The KleanTeam has been actively working for over a decade in China to develop strategic partnerships with both feedstock partners and end-users for pyrolysis-based products, including building relationships with engineering firms to deploy technology across China.

As part of this effort and in partnership with Black Cat Carbon Engineering (BCCE), the KleanTeam has developed an innovative new approach to further enhance the value of Recovered Carbon Black (rCB). In 2021, the KleanTeam had a scientific breakthrough that now enables recovered carbon black to be converted through an additional add-on process to produce high purity graphite that can be used in battery applications for electric mobility. The results of this research in battery design also enable 100% economic circularity as spent batteries can now also be fully recycled into new batteries by design. This game-changing approach increases the value of rCB from US $1,500 per metric ton to US $7,000 per metric ton in basic battery applications and is estimated that new capacitor-based battery applications that use the Klean's Recovered Carbon Graphite (rCG) can be used in applications where prices are estimated to be US $20,000 a metric ton. Not only is this a complete game-changer in the battery sector and the tire recycling sector, but this application also opens the door for economic circularity in its purest form. 

If China's annual production of ten million tons of scrap tires is utilized in the standardized pyrolysis carbonization and graphite enhancement process, the annual output value is estimated to create a multi-billion dollar industrial value chain. This new project has feedstock, offtake, a fully permitted site, and is co-located with a major Carbon Black Manufacturer that is currently under construction. Feasibility study reviews are underway for integration with a Klean Industries tire pyrolysis plant to produce Recovered Fuel Oil (rFO) used to produce Bio-based Virgin Carbon Black and Recovered Carbon Black (rCB) combined with Recovered Carbon Graphite (rCG). 

Benefits Realized:

The end result is the preservation of finite resources through the production of the following sustainable commodities (approximate volume):

  • Est 10 million tires a year recycled
  • 17,000 TPA of recovered carbon graphite (rCG)
  • 10,000 TPA of recovered carbon black (rCB)
  • 43,000 TPA of carbon black oil blendstock (rFO)
  • 13,500 TPA of steel (rSW)
  • 150,000 TPA of carbon dioxide emission offset
  • Hundreds of jobs are created in a region that requires economic development
This project addresses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by considering the goals and associated targets illustrated by the WBCSD’s Tire Industry Project (TIP). TIP offers a framework for action that outlines impactful pathways for the tire sector to contribute to the ambitions of the SDGs. To learn more about how Klean's approach, solutions, and technologies contribute to advancing the SDGs please review the report called "Sustainability Driven: Accelerating Impact with the Tire Sector SDG Roadmap". See: https://www.wbcsd.org/Sector-Projects/Tire-Industry-Project/End-of-Life-Tires-ELTs