MGX Minerals Inc. [XMG-CSE] says it has engaged Highbury Energy Inc. to develop a chemical process to concentrate and extract metals such as nickel, vanadium, and coke from petroleum coke. MGX shares jumped 26.5% or $0.34 to $1.62 on January 16, 2018, the day the agreement was announced. The shares soared last year as investors sought exposure to the predicted electric vehicle revolution through MGX, which aims to lead the way into petrolithium production, combining oil for conventional vehicles and lithium for electric vehicles produced from oilfield wastewater.
In keeping with that goal, the company has moved to establish itself as Canada’s biggest holder of lithium brine assets with around two million acres in North America.
Petcoke is a carbon material by-product, essentially a waste product of the oil and gas industry that forms during the oil refining process. As refineries have become more efficient at processing extra heavy crude oils (bitumen) over the last two decades, production of petcoke globally has risen significantly.
Because petcoke originates from heavier petroleum fractions, its denser impurities such as metals and sulphur compounds are concentrate within it. Most power plants in North America and Europe will not burn petcoke for fuel because it is so polluting. But it is freely available anywhere that bitumen is upgraded into synthetic crude oil, including the Alberta oilsands and refineries close to major U.S. cities.
According to the Alberta Energy Regulator, petcoke inventories are estimated to have reached 106 million tonnes in 2016.
While concentrations of individual metals are low in raw petcoke, Highbury is utilizing its advanced knowledge of the thermochemical gasification and existing large-scale pilot plant experience to assist MGX in designing a process to generate hydrogen gas and concentrate metals in the form of ash byproduct
Highbury has completed a Phase 1 report on potential processes and markets for primary and secondary byproducts. It has launched a Phase 11 study that will focus on analyses of locations, laboratory bench top feedstock results, advanced process design and initial plant parameters.
Development of these detailed processes will be spearheaded by Dr. Paul Watkinson, a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of British Columbia. Watkinson is also a co-founder of Highbury.
“Similar to advancements made by the company over the last year in treating wastewater brine and recovering minerals, MGX and Highbury will look to develop a process that utilizes gasification methods to concentrate metals from petcoke,” said MGX President and Chief Executive Officer Jared Lazerson.
“We believe entry into an untapped market of this magnitude aligns perfectly with our business strategy of creating innovative processes and technology to shape the new energy economy,” he said.
MGX Minerals is a diversified resource company that is focused on the development of large-scale industrial mineral portfolios in specific commodities and jurisdictions that will fuel the new energy economy. The company says it is uniquely positioned to pursue this strategy as it holds significant interests in lithium, magnesium, and silicon assets throughout North America.
Highbury Energy is engaged in the development and utilization of renewable energy resources through the procurement and conversion of biomass. For example, it has developed a proprietary dual-bed steam gasification technology and patented gas cleanup system that converts biomass into high-grade synthesis or fuel gas. This process produces a medium calorific value gas from most types of organic matter such as wood or agricultural wastes.