Jun 30, 2020

Columbia University receives grant to modernise grid systems

Columbia University
US Department of Energy
Electrical grid
William Girling
3 min
UoC
In a recent press release, the University of Columbia (UoC) has announced a USD$2.06mn grant from the US Department of Energy (DoE...

In a recent press release, the University of Columbia (UoC) has announced a USD$2.06mn grant from the US Department of Energy (DoE).

The award, called a Performance-based Energy Resource Feedback, Optimisation and Risk Management (PERFORM) grant, will go towards the development of a dashboard capable of monitoring the electrical grid for the purposes of mitigating financial and engineering risks.

The UoC notes that whilst independent system operators (ISOs) can currently check several conditions regarding the grid’s state, including the energy output of mixed renewable and non-renewable generators, they cannot do not have the technological ability to sufficiently assess or counter risk potential. 

Challenging old paradigms

Agostino Capponi, Professor of Industrial Engineering at the UoC and a member of the Data Science Institute (DSI), believes that this project will mark the beginning of a new chapter in energy management.

“Our reliance on risk management techniques constitutes a fundamental shift in the practice of power system modelling.

"We are challenging existing practices by bringing operations research methods based on optimisation, financial risk analytics and modern data science techniques into the hard-core engineering domain of power engineering.”

The optimisation presented by the newly proposed dashboard is certainly transformative: utilising accurate data-feeds, ISOs will be able to react to new developments within minutes or several days depending on the severity of the issue.

By grasping the fundamental risks of the grid, the US’ power supply could be made more efficient, reliable and flexible, with more renewable energy assets capable of being grafted onto preexisting infrastructure. 

“On the regulatory side, ISOs will use these metrics to design risk mitigation policies to prevent malfunctioning of the grid. Market participants, moreover, will use our metrics to plan their daily grid operation, and make sound decisions on energy storage and hedge against price fluctuations,” continued Capponi.

Bolstering America’s energy and security

With an experienced team of industrial engineers, physicists, mathematicians and computer engineers, the research is likely to produce top-echelon results. With the DoE previously announcing $25mn in funding for 10 projects focusing on energy management, it seems that the US is gearing up for an increasingly renewable energy-based grid.

“Ensuring the reliability of our nation’s critical energy infrastructure and electric grid is of the utmost importance to America’s energy security and national security,” commented Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes.

“Investing in new technologies and systems that minimise risk and bolster the reliability of US energy will allow us to utilise all of our abundant energy resources in a more integrated and secure manner.”

Finally, Daniel Bienstock, Professor of Applied Physics and Mathematics at UoC, part of the lead research team, stated that the opportunity to work on such an important infrastructure project was a pleasure and a privilege: 

“We will call upon our respective skills to design and deploy the risk dashboard for power systems.

“It’s a great privilege to be able to combine all our skills—operations, industrial engineering, risk management and data science techniques—to help America operationalise and streamline its power grid.”

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Oct 19, 2020

Itronics successfully tests manganese recovery process

cleantech
manganese
USA
Scott Birch
3 min
Nevada firm aims to become the primary manganese producer in the United States
Nevada firm aims to become the primary manganese producer in the United States...

Itronics - a Nevada-based emerging cleantech materials growth company that manufacturers fertilisers and produces silver - has successfully tested two proprietary processes that recover manganese, with one process recovering manganese, potassium and zinc from paste produced by processing non-rechargeable alkaline batteries. The second recovers manganese via the company’s Rock Kleen Technology.

Manganese, one of the four most important industrial metals and widely used by the steel industry, has been designated by the US Federal Government as a "critical mineral." It is a major component of non-rechargeable alkaline batteries, one of the largest battery categories sold globally.

The use of manganese in EV batteries is increasing as EV battery technology is shifting to use of more nickel and manganese in battery formulations. But according to the US Department of Interior, there is no mine production of manganese in the United States. As such, Itronics is using its Rock Kleen Technology to test metal recoverability from mine tailings obtained from a former silver mine in western Nevada that has a high manganese content. 

In a statement, Itronics says that its Rock Kleen process recovers silver, manganese, zinc, copper, lead and nickel. The company says that it has calculated – based on laboratory test results – that if a Rock Kleen tailings process is put into commercial production, the former mine site would become the only primary manganese producer in the United States.

Itronics adds that it has also tested non-rechargeable alkaline battery paste recovered by a large domestic battery recycling company to determine if it could use one of its hydrometallurgical processes to solubilize the manganese, potassium, and zinc contained in the paste. This testing was successful, and Itronics was able to produce material useable in two of its fertilisers, it says.

"We believe that the chemistry of the two recovery processes would lend itself to electrochemical recovery of the manganese, zinc, and other metals. At this time electrochemical recovery has been tested for zinc and copper,” says Dr John Whitney, Itronics president. 

“Itronics has been reviewing procedures for electrochemical recovery of manganese and plans to move this technology forward when it is appropriate to do so and has acquired electro-winning equipment needed to do that.

"Because of the two described proprietary technologies, Itronics is positioned to become a domestic manganese producer on a large scale to satisfy domestic demand. The actual manganese products have not yet been defined, except for use in the Company's GOLD'n GRO Multi-Nutrient Fertilisers. However, the Company believes that it will be able to produce chemical manganese products as well as electrochemical products," he adds.

Itronics’ research and development plant is located in Reno, about 40 miles west of the Tesla giga-factory. Its planned cleantech materials campus, which will be located approximately 40 miles south of the Tesla factory, would be the location where the manganese products would be produced.

Panasonic is operating one of the world's largest EV battery factories at the Tesla location. However, Tesla and other companies have announced that EV battery technology is shifting to use of nickel-manganese batteries. Itronics is positioned and located to become a Nevada-0based supplier of manganese products for battery manufacturing as its manganese recovery technologies are advanced, the company states.

A long-term objective for Itronics is to become a leading producer of high purity metals, including the U.S. critical metals manganese and tin, using the Company's breakthrough hydrometallurgy, pyrometallurgy, and electrochemical technologies. ‘Additionally, Itronics is strategically positioned with its portfolio of "Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies" to help solve the recently declared emergency need for domestic production of Critical Minerals from materials located at mine sites,’ the statement continues.

The Company's growth forecast centers upon its 10-year business plan designed to integrate its Zero Waste Energy Saving Technologies and to grow annual sales from $2 million in 2019, to $113 million in 2025.

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