HXG Commences Funding the Commercialization of RapidSX™ Rare-Earth Elements Separation Technology
TORONTO, Dec. 18, 2019 - Hexagon Energy Materials Ltd. (ASX:HXG) (“HXG”, “Hexagon” or the “Company”) is pleased to announce that it has commenced funding of the Phase-One commercialization of RapidSX™ rare-earth element (“REE”) separation technology for REE concentrates.
Per HXG’s October 10, 2019 ASX announcement (“Hexagon Enters US-based Rare Earth Downstream Processing Industry”), the Company has executed a binding Investment Agreement whereby Hexagon has secured an option to acquire a 49% interest in RapidSX™ for REEs - an advanced, proprietary low-cost downstream REE separation technology developed and piloted by Innovation Metals Corp. (“IMC”). With US$1.8 million in funding assistance from the US Department of Defense, IMC’s proprietary RapidSX separation technology holds the potential to cost-effectively enable current and future REE producers to move downstream into REE separation. This would potentially mitigate current concerns about the extreme concentration of the REE supply chain with greater participation by Western producers and manufacturers.
HXG has agreed to commence funding the Phase-One commercialization of the RapidSX Commercial Demonstration Plant (“CDP”) from existing cash for the following development and commercialization initiatives:
- RapidSX Front-End Engineering Design (“FEED”) Study for the CDP to provide an independent overview of the capital budget and schedule prepared by IMC, as well as some early extrapolations on capital costs for a full-scale commercial plant based on specific mixed REE chemical concentrate feedstock types.
- Securing RapidSX Intellectual Property by finalizing provisional patent applications on the RapidSX technology and related flow sheets, initially in the United States.
- The incorporation of American Innovation Metals (“AIM”) in the United States. AIM will serve as the incorporated joint venture vehicle for HXG and IMC to commercialize RapidSX.
The AIM business case is underpinned by:
- Substantial CAPEX and OPEX savings compared to traditional SX separation processes which are competitive with Chinese separation costs; savings which have already attracted significant end-user interest.
- A ‘capital-lite’ revenue model. RapidSX is planned to be licensed to users in exchange for variously structured licensing fees, but essentially leveraged to the capital cost savings, volumes and value of separated REE oxides (“REOs”).
- Explosive global demand forecasts for REE’s over the next decade with the growth of REE permanent magnets (“REPMs”) used in renewable energy projects, electric vehicles (“EVs”) and a wide range of military and high-tech applications.
- Substantial market opportunity. Current primary REE oxide (“REO”) market size of more than 183ktpa with a market value of US$3.4B; forecasted to grow 60% (to 293ktpa) in terms of market size and forecasted growth of more than 85% (to US$6.3B) in market value by 2025. Certain sectors are projected to have significantly higher growth rates, with the use of REEs for EV traction motors projected to grow by 350% between 2018 and 20251, demonstrating the considerable potential scale of the AIM business.
IMC and Hexagon have agreed to form AIM — an incorporated joint venture — with IMC contributing the RapidSX technology IP and expertise for REE separation. Hexagon contributes commercial and marketing skills and has agreed to invest US$2 million into the construction of the RapidSX CDP and to pay US$4 million to IMC as deferred consideration, payable from Hexagon’s share of future AIM cash flows.
HXG’s Phase-One funding contribution will be applied towards HXG’s US$2 million option obligation and will enable IMC — through AIM — to advance the requisite development work to ensure the RapidSX CDP timelines are achieved on time and on budget; and, concurrently, to protect the IP of this important and potentially disruptive REE technology.
AIM’s mandate is to commercialize the RapidSX technology for the separation and processing of REEs, and by doing so create a viable alternative to the Chinese monopoly over virtually the entire global REE supply chain.
HXG’s Managing Director, Mike Rosenstreich, commented, “Given the strong support at our recent AGM for Hexagon’s expanded strategy and entry into REE processing, we are tremendously pleased to be able to start working with IMC and fund development of the Commercial Demonstration Plant forthwith.”
“The RapidSX technology is a game changer for the global REE processing industry, and a historic opportunity to diversify a global REE supply chain with greater participation from Western producers and manufacturers,” stated Mr. Rosenstreich. “With Front-End Engineering Design work commencing in early January 2020, we intend to have a RapidSX-based commercial demonstration plant fully operational — in North America — in Q4 2020, with a planned production capacity of between 60 and 80 tonnes per annum. Our focus is on the commercialization of RapidSX to generate returns for our shareholders and to build a viable and sustainable energy-materials business.”
1Adamas Intelligence, Electric Growth: EVs, Motors and Motor Materials (2019)
HXG has commenced several discussions with various potential funding and strategic partners exploring near-term financing opportunities for HXG’s ongoing participation in the AIM joint venture, in addition to the Company’s US-based downstream graphite development plans.
A photo accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/1abaca77-a95d-4860-adda-0545d45365ee
RapidSX™ COMMERCIALIZATION STRATEGY
Based on IMC’s pilot-scale work, RapidSX has demonstrated robust economics, the ability to effectively separate LREE and HREEs, significantly reduced footprint/staging, and the ability to build out and commission quickly. However, the most compelling aspect of the technology to HXG is the fact that RapidSX is not a ‘new’ technology (with uncertain technological, scalability and economic uncertainties typically associated with new technologies), but rather a radical improvement on the well-established and understood solvent extraction (“SX”) separation technology (SX is a well-established, time-proven separation technology for separating REE concentrates into commercial-grade REE products. All commercial separation of REEs today relies on conventional SX).
The RapidSX CDP will be financially self-sufficient following the initial investment, leaving HXG’s shareholders positively exposed to the revenue potential via AIM’s planned licensing commercialization strategy. Core components of the commercialization strategy are set out in the following sections.
RapidSX COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES
Table 1: Summary of RapidSX vs. Conventional Solvent Extraction for REE Separation.
|Performance & Efficiency|
|REE Recovery Rates||High||High|
|Time to Equilibrium||Hours/Days||Weeks|
|Equipment Cost||~60% to 70% Reduction||High|
|Separation Staging||~90% Reduction||High|
- Low CAPEX: Due to the considerably reduced number of separation stages per SX circuit and resultant smaller physical plant footprint, compared to conventional SX approaches. Based on the IMC pilot-scale test work and review of various ‘typical’ light REE (“LREE”) projects, IMC estimates that there is a 60-70% saving in terms of start-up capital per kg of annual separation capacity, contingent on the specific feedstock utilized and resulting REE products desired.
- Rapid Equilibrium: As a result of the significantly increased separation kinetics of the RapidSX proprietary technology, the time to equilibrium/steady state is dramatically accelerated — from weeks (as is typical in the case with conventional SX) to hours/days with RapidSX.
- Low OPEX: Due to significantly reduced separation times, reduced reagent and power consumption, reduced manpower requirements, and reduced in-process metal inventories. The piloting work undertaken by IMC also indicated meaningful cost savings of between 15-20% compared to utilization of conventional SX, depending on the feedstock and resulting REE products. Estimated separation costs of less than US$2/kg for light REOs and less than US$12/kg for heavy REOs (depending on the feedstock and resulting REE products) are competitive with current estimated Chinese separation costs.
- Agnostic: RapidSX is capable of separating LREE-rich, heavy-REE (“HREE”) rich and even blends of mixed REE feedstocks.
- Commercially Available: all construction materials for the RapidSX technology - all associated equipment and chemistry — are readily commercially available.
- Scalable and Modular: the RapidSX technology’s process lines are modular and scalable, providing licensees to scale commercial production capacity.
AIM REVENUE MODEL
A capital-light approach is the prime revenue model. RapidSX is planned to be licensed to users in exchange for variously structured licensing fees, but essentially leveraged to the capital-cost savings, volumes and value of separated REOs.
An additional opportunity may arise, e.g. in the USA where, with external funding support, AIM may establish its own commercial-scale separation facility for toll processing or for AIM to acquire materials to separate and sell to its own account.
The growth of AIM’s business is tied into the demand growth of the REPM metals. Its revenue model is tied directly to ‘units’ separated and is predicated on increasing Western-sourced materials. Rapid SX is potentially a key contributor to providing upstream project developers with cost-effective, competitive alternative to simply selling a REE chemical concentrate to China.
Under this commercialization strategy, HXG would also be leveraged to improving REO prices. Given the positive demand fundamentals for REPMs, metals analysts expect prices to improve in line with the non-substitutional inputs into high-growth sectors such as EV, wind-power generation, and high-tech and defense applications.
About Hexagon Energy Materials Limited
Hexagon Energy Materials Ltd. is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (“ASX”) under the ticker code “HXG”. The Company holds a 100% interest in the McIntosh Graphite Project in Western Australia and an 80% interest in the Ceylon Graphite Project in Alabama, USA. With a current focus on the downstream processing of graphite and other energy materials, Hexagon has attained formidable technical knowledge based on test work of its McIntosh project flake-graphite material, which is applicable and highly valuable for a range of specialty-material applications. The Company’s focus is on creating sustained shareholder value by maximizing near-term growth opportunities to commercialize that downstream business in the USA, where it has forged strong technical, commercial and investor relationships.
Learn more at www.HXGenergymaterials.com
This news release contains projections and statements that may constitute “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of applicable United States, Canadian and other laws. Forward-looking statements in this release may include, among others, statements regarding the future plans, costs, objectives, or performance of Hexagon Energy Materials Ltd. or the assumptions underlying any of the foregoing. In this news release, words such as “may”, “could”, “would”, “will”, “likely”, “believe”, “expect”, “anticipate”, “intend”, “plan”, “goal”, “estimate”, and similar words, and the negative forms thereof, are used to identify forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that are beyond the control of Hexagon Energy Materials Ltd., and which may cause the actual results, level of activity, performance or achievements of Hexagon Energy Materials Ltd. to be materially different from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Such risks and uncertainties could cause actual results, plans and objectives of Hexagon Energy Materials Ltd. to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking information. Hexagon Energy Materials Ltd. can offer no assurance that its plans will be completed. These and all subsequent written and oral forward-looking information are based on estimates and opinions of Hexagon Energy Materials Ltd. management on the dates they are made and expressly qualified in their entirety by this notice. Except as required by law, Hexagon Energy Materials Ltd. assumes no obligation to update forward-looking information should circumstances or the estimates or opinions of Hexagon Energy Materials Ltd. management change.
North American Media and Investor Relations Contact:
First Canadian Place
100 King Street West
Toronto, Ontario M5X 1C7
telephone: +1 416 915 3150