1. What is the Atlas Process?
The Atlas Process is a pioneering, hydrometallurgical approach for extracting nickel with a much lower environmental footprint than currently available technologies. The Atlas Process uses acid and alkali reagents to extract nickel from ore to produce nickel products used in the production of EV batteries.
While the Atlas Process is innovative, it is based upon combining proven processing technologies. The Atlas Process generates no process emissions and as a result has an expected carbon dioxide intensity of only 0.1 tons of CO2 per ton of nickel when powered by renewables.
The Atlas Process also generates no waste and works on saprolite ores that could not previously be processed into battery grade nickel products due to limitations in processing technologies.
2. What is hydrometallurgy?
Hydrometallurgy is a method for extracting metal products from ores, concentrates or recycled materials using water-based solvents. Hydrometallurgy is widely practiced for the recovery of nickel and cobalt and many other base, precious and rare metals.
3. How confident are you that the Atlas Process will emit only 0.1 tons of CO2 per ton of nickel produced?
We are very confident that the Atlas Process will achieve this level of Scope 1 and 2 CO2 emissions. We have worked with some of the leading technical experts in metals processing, such as Hatch and SGS, to validate our work.
4. What testing has been completed on the Atlas Process?
Our technology, processing methods and impact analysis have undergone exhaustive testing including by leading third party experts such as Hatch and SGS, and EPFL. We have tested our technology on multiple ores from major nickel mines around the world to prove wide applicability.
5. Why has a process such as this never been tried before?
Nickel demand was driven by the steel industry for which existing saprolite processing technologies were adequate. The development of the battery sector has changed this and demand for battery grade intermediate nickel products with a low carbon footprint creates a gap that the Atlas Process will address.
6. Is the Atlas process similar to high pressure acid leaching?
No. The Atlas Process does not use high pressure or high temperatures. The process occurs entirely at atmospheric pressure and at ambient temperatures below 100 degrees centigrade.
7. What waste products does the Atlas Process create?
Our process produces no harmful emissions and no waste.
8. What is ocean-deacidification?
As oceans absorb CO2 the pH falls (making the ocean more acidic). The oceans have absorbed around 30% of manmade global CO2 emissions and become more acidic meaning their ability to store carbon falls. Ocean de-acidification therefore could enable oceans to store more CO2, enabling greenhouse gas reductions and mitigating some of the harmful effects of climate change. We support the scientific work that could prove vital to meeting the Paris Climate Agreement goals.
9. Will the first commercial plant be profitable?
Yes, we expect that the plant will be profitable.
10. When will a decision be made on the site location for the Phase 1?
Atlas is currently assessing three potential sites in North America, and we aim to make a final decision by mid 2024.
Markets & Products
11. What is MHP?
MHP, or mixed hydroxide precipitate, is an intermediate nickel product that contains nickel and a small amount of cobalt. MHP is becoming a standard product in the EV battery industry as it is easier to handle and transport than other forms of nickel and can be processed by a large number of customers.
12. What is magnesium hydroxide?
Magnesium hydroxide is used in wastewater treatment, antacid, and flue gas de- sulphurization. There is the potential to use magnesium hydroxide to enhance the alkalinity of the ocean to sequester giga tons of carbon dioxide. Research is still in early stages, and we are working with leading partners to investigate this potential.
13. What are the supplementary cementitious materials used for?
We anticipate that the supplementary cementitious materials that Atlas produces will be used to replace up to 30% of clinker used in cement production. The production of conventional clinker creates approximately 825–890 kg of CO2 per ton of clinker. Replacement of clinker in cement making with Atlas siliceous material will significantly reduce the CO2 intensity in cement and concrete manufacture.
14. How big is the market for ultra-low carbon nickel?
Demand for nickel used in batteries is expected to grow by approximately 20 to 25 times by 2040 according to the IEA as it is critical to supporting the energy transition. There is an emerging global shortage of nickel that can be used in battery supply chains with some expecting a battery nickel supply deficit of almost 900,000 tons per year by 2030. Also, as major end users of nickel pursue net zero strategies, demand for low carbon products is expected to grow significantly.
15. Will Atlas produce battery grade nickel? If so, is there any validation of this?
Atlas will produce MHP, which is an intermediate product that can be used by MHP refineries to produce battery grade nickel product. SGS Lakefield, the world’s leading testing, inspection and certification company has confirmed the quality of our product supported by Wood Mackenzie data that shows Atlas’ nickel produced from current testing matches existing producer specifications.
16. What is Nickel saprolite?
Saprolite is a type of ore that contains nickel and cobalt as well as a high concentration of magnesium silicates. Saprolites comprise roughly one third of the world’s resources of nickel and have traditionally been used to produce ferronickel used in the steel industry. Until now, saprolite ores have not been used to produce battery grade nickel products due to the limitations of existing technologies to process the ore, which Atlas has solved.
17. What saleable products will Atlas produce?
Our process produces high grade nickel products for use in EV batteries as well clean magnesium hydroxide and SCM, that can be used in other industries and abate emissions.
18. What is nickel and what is it used for?
Nickel is an element with the symbol Ni, traditionally used in making alloys such as stainless steel. Nickel is increasingly critical to supporting the energy transition and demand for nickel used in batteries is expected to grow by approximately 20 to 25 times by 2040 according to the IEA . More information is available from the Nickel Institute.