Energy Renewable Energy
Innovative Refining Facility to Produce Needed Critical Metals

Jesse S. UnkenholzChristy Boardman KuklinskiEmily K. McKee

Nth Cycle Breaks Ground on a First-Of-Its-Kind Nickel MHP Facility for Commercial Production in Support of the Electrified and Circular Economy

The Company

Nth Cycle, based in Burlington, Massachusetts, is a metal refining company focused on reduction opportunities across the metal supply chain. It works with scrap recyclers and miners to recover production-grade critical minerals from industrial scrap, low-grade ore, and refining waste. The company’s patented electro-extraction technology—an alternative to hydrometallurgy and pyrometallurgy—enables customizable, clean, and consistent recovery of the critical minerals for the energy transition. Nth Cycle is recognized as the first U.S.-based minerals and metal manufacturer, a key requirement for domestic production which is critical for the electric vehicle revolution, energy storage supply chain and the creation of new jobs through the Inflation Reduction Act.

The Impact

Nth Cycle broke ground on its first commercial-scale black mass refining facility June 26, 2023, in Fairfield, Ohio, aiming to fast track the supply of critical metals for the United States that can be used in the production of rechargeable lithium batteries. The facility is scheduled to launch and be operational by the end of 2023.

The 21,000 square foot facility in Fairfield, Ohio, will “feature Nth Cycle's electro-extraction technology which will recover the outputs of metal scrap, electronics waste, untapped mining resources and refinery waste into critical metal products including nickel and cobalt through its premium Mixed Hydroxide Precipitate (MHP) product,” the company said. 

The new refining facility will be first-of-its-kind in the United States. It will be able to utilize shredded lithium batteries from energy projects and electric vehicles, known as “black mass,” and separate them into their component metals for sale to battery manufacturers to be made back into rechargeable lithium batteries.

"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," said Megan O'Connor, PhD., co-founder and CEO of Nth Cycle. "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 U.S. as a global leader in that movement."

Up until this point, the United States has not engaged in any domestic production of MHP. Instead, battery manufacturers have relied on an unreliable supply with inconsistent quality from politically unstable countries that have questionable working conditions and environmental practices, the company said. 

Nth Cycle's MHP initiative aims to address this issue by mitigating the risk for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) while also improving the quality of the product.

The Team

Jesse Unkenholz, partner in Balch’s Birmingham office, Co-Chair of the Energy Transactions & Acquisitions Practice, and member of the Renewable Energy and Corporate Practices, along with Emily McKee and Christy Kuklinksi, attorneys in the firm’s Birmingham office and members of the Energy Transactions and Acquisitions Practice, negotiated the major commercial aspects of the new refining facility, including the contracts included the engineering, procurement and construction agreements, the major equipment supply agreements, and services and supply agreements.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to support Nth Cycle as it deploys this first-of-its-kind project in the U.S. to support the clean energy transition towards renewable energy sources and the critical role that battery storage technology will play in that evolution,” Jesse said. “Novel projects raise novel challenges, and we love working with clients like Nth Cycle who are not afraid to jump right in to find novel solutions.” 

Photos courtesy of Nth Cycle.

All images © 2023 Nth Cycle.