Caterpillar invests in metals recycling startup company

Construction equipment giant Caterpillar has invested in a startup company that specialises in critical metals refining.

Cat MH3050 material handler lifting scrap metal Cat MH3050 material handler (PHOTO: Caterpillar)

Caterpillar, through its subsidiary Caterpillar Ventures Capital, was one of several companies to contribute a total of US$44 million in Series B and non-dilutive financing to Massachusetts-based recycling company Nth Cycle.

Nth Cycle is the developer of what is believed to be the only patented electro-extraction modular refining system in the world.

Known as “The Oyster” and occupying a footprint of just 2,000 sq ft, the modular unit combines electrochemistry, chemical precipitation and filtration to process metal-bearing feed material and turn it into metal and metal salts for resale.

Compared to the traditional, energy intensive smelting process (pyrometallurgy), the Oyster is said to offer a clean and “sustainable” way of refining metals, from feedstocks such as scrap, black mass, primary ore concentrates, and waste streams.

Nth Cycle says the system “extracts metals of any type, in any state”, using just electricity and water. The moneys raised in this latest round of financing will help scale Nth Cycle’s commercialisation, by enabling it to establish a new partner testing facility, expand its headquarters and grow its workforce.

Rod Shurman, Senior Vice President of Electrification and Energy Solutions at Caterpillar, said: “Caterpillar’s collaboration with Nth Cycle supports our commitment to helping our customers achieve their climate-related objectives and establishing a circular value chain.

“Wherever possible, we keep resources in the Caterpillar value chain through a circular flow of materials, energy and water. Nth Cycle’s Electro-Extraction refining technology can help get valuable materials back into the supply chain.”

Nth Cycle received its initial seed financing in 2021 and commercially deployed its systems in 2022. It recently announced that it was set to become the “first company in the United States to offer a domestic nickel mixed hydroxide product (Ni MHP)”.

According to the startup, its Ni MHP product could help the country “to meet the goals of establishing a domestic supply of critical metals crucial for the growth of electrification infrastructure established by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)”.

Megan O’Connor, PhD, the CEO and Co-Founder of Nth Cycle, said: “Refining has long been the obstacle to a broader sustainable and closed-loop metal supply chain in the U.S. and EU, which is why we set out to solve that problem, while offering a complementary solution for recyclers.

“In just three years, we have grown out of the lab and into a commercial facility with new deployments of our modular Oyster units in the near future. Building critical relationships with our investors, partners and policymakers has been a key part of Nth Cycle’s rapid growth to scale, and that commitment continues with this financing.”

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