International Battery Metals announced the appointment of Iris Jancik as CEO. Photo via IBAT

A Houston- and Vancouver-based battery materials company has named a new CEO, effective later this summer.

International Battery Metals (IBAT) announced the appointment of Iris Jancik as CEO. She will focus on expanding commercial deployment of IBAT's patented modular direct lithium extraction (DLE) plants, and begin in the role in mid-August.

Currently, IBAT is commissioning the DLE plant with an initial design capacity of 5,000 metric tons a year. The plant expects to begin lithium production in June. The plant will process brine produced from lithium-containing waste-magnesium salts, and the lithium chloride product will provide feed for high-purity lithium carbonate production by US Mag.

The plant is the first commercial DLE plant in North America and the first modular DLE plant in the world. IBAT also recently announced the installation of its first commercial lithium production plant, which is co-located at US Magnesium's (US Mag) operations outside Salt Lake City, Utah.

Jancik served as CEO of IDE Americas, a subsidiary of IDE Technologies, which is a global desalination and water treatment solutions company prior to joining IBAT. She holds an M.B.A. in international business from Texas A&M University, and brings expertise as an engineer with extensive global contracting and management experience.

"Iris brings deep expertise in water infrastructure, which is core to our DLE water-recycling process, and the requisite global commercial chops to build on IBAT's momentum," John Burba, CTO and director of International Battery Metals, says in a news release. "I expect IBAT to take on new frontiers for growth with Iris at the helm and look forward to collaborating with her."

Jancik will be taking over for the person credited with accelerating IBAT's technology to its first commercial phase , Garry Flowers, who joined IBAT for a two-year period, starting as president in July 2022 and then named CEO in December 2022.

According to IBAT, IBAT's modular lithium extraction plant has been independently verified to extract more than 97% lithium from brine. Lithium production is rising to reach approximately 180,000 metric tons in 2023 with approximately 22,000 metric tons coming from an established DLE project in Argentina.

"IBAT's proprietary commercialized DLE technology is proven, ready to push-start a US lithium industry, and revolutionize global production, making this a prime time to join the organization," Jancik adds. "Burgeoning battery demand requires a wholesale change in how lithium is produced, and IBAT delivers the right combination of efficiency, sustainability and scalability to reach new heights.”

Standard Lithium retaining operatorship, while Equinor will support through its core competencies, like subsurface and project execution capabilities. Photo via Equinor.com

Equinor makes big investment into lithium projects in Arkansas, East Texas

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A Norwegian international energy company has entered into a deal to take a 45-percent share in two lithium project companies in Southwest Arkansas and East Texas.

Equinor, which has its U.S. headquarters in Houston, has reached an agreement with Vancouver, Canada-based Standard Lithium Ltd. to make the acquisition. Standard Lithium retaining operatorship, while Equinor will support through its core competencies, like subsurface and project execution capabilities.

“Sustainably produced lithium can be an enabler in the energy transition, and we believe it can become an attractive business. This investment is an option with limited upfront financial commitment. We can utilise core technologies from oil and gas in a complementary partnership to mature these projects towards a possible final investment decision,” says Morten Halleraker, senior vice president for New Business and Investments in Technology, Digital and Innovation at Equinor, in a news release.

Standard Lithium retains the other 55 percent of the projects. Per the deal, will pay $30 million in past costs net to the acquired interest. The company also agreed to carry Standard Lithium's capex of $33 million "to progress the assets towards a possible final investment decision," per the release. Additionally, Equinor will make milestone payments of up to $70 million in aggregate to Standard Lithium should a final investment decision be taken.

Lithium is regarded as important to the energy transition due to its use in battery storage, including in electric vehicles. Direct Lithium Extraction, or DLE, produces the mineral from subsurface reservoirs. New technologies have the potential to improve this production method while lowering the environmental footprint.

Earlier this month, Houston-based International Battery Metals, whose technology offers an eco-friendly way to extract lithium compounds from brine, announced that it's installing what it’s billing as the world’s first commercial modular direct-lithium extraction plant located at US Magnesium’s operations outside Salt Lake City. The plant is expected to go online later this year.

The plant, expected to go online later this year, will process brine produced from lithium-containing waste-magnesium salts. Photo via ibatterymetals.com

Houston company plans to install the first commercial direct lithium extraction plant in the US

coming soon

Houston-based International Battery Metals, whose technology offers an eco-friendly way to extract lithium compounds from brine, is installing what it’s billing as the world’s first commercial modular direct-lithium extraction plant.

The mobile facility is located at US Magnesium’s operations outside Salt Lake City. The plant, expected to go online later this year, will process brine produced from lithium-containing waste-magnesium salts. The resulting lithium chloride product will provide feedstock for high-purity lithium carbonate generated by US Magnesium.

Under its agreement with US Magnesium, International Battery Metals (IBAT) will receive royalties on lithium sales, as well as payments for equipment operations based on lithium prices and performance.

IBAT says its patented technology is the only system that delivers a 97 percent extraction rate for lithium chloride from brine water, with up to 98 percent of water recycled and with minimal use of chemicals.

“Commercial operations will serve growing lithium demand from automakers for electric vehicle batteries, as well as energy storage batteries to support growing electricity demand and to balance the grid from increased renewable energy integration,” IBAT says in a news release.

Initially, the less than three-acre plant will annually produce 5,000 metric tons of lithium chloride. The modular plant was fabricated in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

“Our commercial operations with US Mag will advance a productive lithium extraction operation,” says Garry Flowers, CEO of IBAT. “Given current lithium demand, supply dependence on China, and permitting challenges, our expected commercial operations are coming at an ideal time to produce lithium at scale in the U.S.”

IBAT says the technology has been validated by independent reviewers and has been tested in Texas, California, Michigan, Ohio, and Oklahoma, as well as Argentina, Canada, Chile, and Germany.

IBAT says its modular concept positions the company to be a key supplier for rising U.S. lithium demand, providing an alternative to China and other global suppliers.

John Burba, founder, CTO and director of IBAT, says the modular extraction technology “will be the basis of future lithium extraction from brine resources around the world.”

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Future of Elon Musk, Tesla on the line this week as shareholders vote on massive pay package

TBD

If Tesla shareholders vote against restoring Elon Musk's $44.9 billion pay package Thursday, the CEO could deliver on threats to take artificial intelligence research to one of his other companies. Or he could even could walk away.

If they approve the all-stock compensation package that was thrown out by a Delaware judge in January, it would almost guarantee he would remain at the company he grew to be the world leader in electric vehicles, shifting to AI and robotics including autonomous vehicles, which Musk says is Tesla's future.

But even with reapproval at Thursday's annual shareholders' meeting, which many analysts say is likely, there would be uncertainty. Musk has threatened on X, his social media platform, to develop AI elsewhere if he doesn't get a 25 percent stake in Tesla (He owns about 13 percent now). Musk's xAI recently received $6 billion in funding to develop artificial intelligence.

Wedbush Analyst Dan Ives said he expects the package to be overwhelmingly reapproved, ending a lot of uncertainty with Musk. “This issue has been an overhang on Tesla’s stock, and this will be important to move this distraction in the rearview mirror,” Ives wrote in a note to investors.

Shares of Tesla Inc. have slumped more than 30 percent this year with the company warning of “notably lower” sales growth in 2024.

Also on the shareholder ballot is the related issue of moving the electric vehicle maker's legal home out of Delaware to Texas.

The move is designed to escape from the Delaware court's oversight and possibly a ruling from Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick that invalidated Musk's pay package. In a January opinion on a shareholder lawsuit, the judge determined that Musk controlled the Tesla board and is not entitled to the landmark package once worth nearly $56 billion.

Multiple institutional investors have come out against that sizeable payout, some citing falling vehicle sales, price cuts and the tumbling Tesla stock price. But Tesla's top five institutional shareholders, Vanguard, BlackRock, State Street, Geode Capital, and Capital Research either said they don't announce their votes or wouldn't comment. They control about 17 percent of the votes.

Erik Gordon, a business and law professor at the University of Michigan, said individual shareholders are likely to vote for the package, and they own more than half of Tesla's shares.

One institutional investor who came out against the package is California's State Teachers Retirement System. The large pension fund said Tuesday that it would vote against Musk's pay "based on its sheer magnitude, and because the award would be extremely dilutive to shareholders. We also have concerns with the lack of focus on profitability for the company.”

In May, two big shareholder advisory firms, ISS and Glass Lewis, recommended voting against the package.

But Tesla and Musk have unleashed a furious lobbying effort to get the package approved, in posts on X, television appearances and in proxy filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Only 2 days left to protect & help grow the value of your investment in $TSLA by voting FOR ratification of the 2018 CEO Performance Award,” Tesla posted on X early Tuesday.

Tesla Chairwoman Robyn Denholm, in a letter to shareholders, wrote that the package was approved by 73 percent of the vote six years ago. “Because the Delaware Court second-guessed your decision, Elon has not been paid for any of his work for Tesla for the past six years that has helped to generate significant growth and stockholder value. That strikes us — and the many stockholders from whom we already have heard — as fundamentally unfair, and inconsistent with the will of the stockholders who voted for it,” she wrote.

Tesla has said the 2018 award incentivized Musk to create over $735 billion in value for shareholders in the six years since it was approved.

If Tesla finalizes the vote on moving the company's legal home to Texas before the vote on Musk’s pay package, and it manages to file the paperwork in Austin and get approval of the move, then the effect of the Delaware court ruling could be in doubt. Reapproval of the pay package would then be done as a Texas corporation and could fall under the purview of Texas courts.

Anticipating a quick move by Tesla, lawyers for the shareholder who filed the lawsuit seeking to block Musk’s pay deal, Richard Tornetta, filed motions in Delaware last month seeking an order stopping Tesla from trying to move the case. Tesla responded in letters to the judge that there is no cause for such concerns because they won’t seek a move. Besides, Tesla would still be a Delaware corporation at the time of this week's shareholder vote, they wrote.

In an order denying Tornetta’s motions, Chancellor McCormick wrote that she interprets Tesla’s letters to mean it has no intention of relocating the case to Texas. “The defendants’ statements give me great comfort,” she wrote.

Eric Talley, a Columbia University law professor, said the lawyers are unlikely to try to move the case because their livelihood is handling business cases in Delaware courts.

But it’s also possible that the unpredictable Musk could change lawyers.

McCormick, Talley said, is telling the lawyers “OK, I’m going to believe you, but I’m going to be really irritated if this is a big send up for these things that you said you’re not going to do.”

Talley, who also is a Tesla shareholder and said at present he plans to vote against Musk’s pay, expects Tesla to follow through with appealing McCormick’s ruling to the Delaware Supreme Court.

Texas hydrogen research hub brings on new corporate partner

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A Texas US Department of Energy initiative has added a new corporate player.

Hitachi Energy has joined the DOE's H2@Scale in Texas and Beyond initiative with GTI Energy, Frontier Energy, The University of Texas Austin, and others. The initiative, which opened earlier this year, plans to assist in “integrating utility-scale renewable energy sources with power grids and managing and orchestrating a variety of energy sources” according to a news release.

Most of the ‘H2@Scale project’s activities take place at University of Texas JJ Pickle Research Center in Austin. The project is part of a larger one to expand hydrogen’s role and help to decarbonize Texas. The ‘H2@Scale' project consists of multiple hydrogen production options like a vehicle refueling station alongside a fleet of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Overall, the project is one of the largest collections of renewable hydrogen production, onsite storage, and end-use technologies that are all located at the same site.

Another larger goal is to investigate the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of hydrogen generation from renewable resources, which all aligns with the project’s vision of decarbonization efforts.

Hitachi Energy is part of the full hydrogen value chain from early-stage project origination and design. They also work to ensure grid compliance, power conversion systems and asset management solutions.

“Hitachi Energy is proud to be a key partner in the US Department of Energy’s ‘H2@Scale in Texas and Beyond’ project. The initiative comes at a pivotal moment in our commitment to advancing hydrogen production and its role in the evolving clean energy landscape,” Executive Vice President and Region Head of North America at Hitachi Energy Anthony Allard says in a news release. “As hydrogen emerges as a critical element in decarbonizing hard-to-abate industries, Hitachi Energy remains dedicated to drive innovation and sustainability on a global scale.”

Hitachi’s project teams will undertake feasibility studies for scaling up hydrogen production and use, which will aim to benefit the development of a strategic plan and implementation of the H2@Scale project in the Port of Houston and the region of the Gulf Coast. The teams will also seek opportunities to leverage prospective hydrogen users, pre-existing hydrogen pipelines, and large networks of concentrated industrial infrastructure. Then, they will work to identify environmental and economic benefits of hydrogen deployment in the area.

Earlier this year, Hitachi Energy teamed up with teamed up with Houston-based electrical transmission developer Grid United for a collaboration to work on high-voltage direct current technology for Grid United transmission projects. These projects will aim to interconnect the eastern and western regional power grids in the U.S. The Eastern Interconnection east of the Rocky Mountains, the Western Interconnection west of the Rockies and the Texas Interconnection run by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, make up the three main power grids.

Houston company advances electronics recycling mission with new accreditation

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An innovative Houston company focused on sustainable tech recycling has expanded.

CompuCycle describes its unique Plastics Recycling System as the first and only certified, single solution e-waste recycling business. The company's unique process can now break down discarded technology products into single polymers that can then be reused in the manufacturing process.

“Properly managing all components of electronics is a cornerstone of sustainability and environmental responsibility,” Kelly Adels Hess, CEO of CompuCycle, says in a news release. “Making single polymer plastics that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can reuse to produce new electronics or other products, while adhering to international recycling standards, is a gamechanger for domestic companies and those that need their plastics shipped globally.”

As of now, CompuCycle reports that it's the only service in the country that can provide a recycling solution for both metals and plastics in-house. The company has met the Environmental Protection Agency’s two accredited certification standards, e-Stewards and R2 certification requirements, per the release.

“We saw an opportunity to solve an industry challenge by creating the first domestic, sustainable, single-solution e-waste plastics program that reduces the amount of plastic negatively impacting the environment, while also making it advantageous for companies to recycle and reuse. It’s truly a win for everyone involved,” adds Clive Hess, president at CompuCycle.

CompuCycle, which has over a 20-year history, added recycling electronics to its toolkit in 2019. While CompuCycle has focused on responsible electronics disposal since Kelly's father-in-law, John Hess, founded the company in 1996, certain recent events have increased the need to recycle more efficiently.

"China is no longer accepting scrap, which is where a lot of materials would go after it was dismantled," Kelly told InnovationMap in 2019. "That's why we've created this solution to be able to responsibly handle it here in the U.S."