Materials.Business Weekly ⚙️
April 27, 2021
Quote of the week: “The most important thing I learned by going to space is that we're all interconnected. The only way we're going to solve the problems that we face is by working together.” — Ronald (Ron) Garan Jr., US retired NASA astronaut (https://www.rongaran.com/)
From The Editor's Corner
THE BUSINESS OF ''BLUE MATERIALS''
An old economic model
Today there are more and more concerns about how the economy works. Two hundred fifty years ago, the knowledge-based impact arose with the First Industrial Revolution, leaving behind Feudalism and entering Society in a new economic relationship where Capitalism has been predominant. The incidence of the factors concerning richness production has been evolving. The workforce has moved to talent (incorporated knowledge), the specific weight of capital is sometimes questioned against knowledge assets (e.g., General Electric, HP, Xerox, Apple, Google, Facebook, etc.). Knowledge appeared as an essential factor some decades ago, and now it is the dominant factor. And the land is far less critical than before, and one of the alternatives is to change with natural resources. In addition, post-globalization trends show that two other new factors are becoming increasingly outstanding. One of them is related to societal issues looking for a world in peace based on inclusiveness, justice, and equity. The second new factor is environmental issues, searching for more sustainable development (“in peace with nature”). Arrangements against technological revolution are going well, and the pandemic has fostered its implantation, moving us to an actual Knowledge Society. Societal topics are complicated, but advances are evident, and new ideas are emerging more and more often. Environmental subjects are being considered seriously, and today, an increasing number of economic issues are driven by sustainability guidelines. But the former reign factor in the Feudal era, land, or natural resources, are running out. Consequently, society should consider a new economic model.
A small planet
From the point of view described above, one limiting factor is that the Earth becomes small for the required development. Signs of such a situation are, for example:
● Electric vehicles are an answer to environmental challenges. Such a trend will need vast amounts of batteries. Consequently, the USA Federal government plans to spend USD $174.000 million to promote electric cars and build new charge stations. In the same way, the global EV battery demand is expected to surge ten times by 2030. And in the case of Europe, estimations say that the requirements in 2040 will be about 0.7 – 1.5 TWh per year or equivalent to 45 – 95 mass-scale battery production plants or gigafactories. Estimates also say that recycled batteries could meet up to 40% of material demands. But the remaining 60% must be supplied by extracting and processing minerals.
● Apprehensions about raw materials availability are reflected in studies on the so-called “strategic materials.” It is known that these materials are fundamental to the economy and the permanent improvement of the quality of life. A recent study crossed the high economic importance and the increased supply risk (including geopolitical concerns) of a group of 54 candidate materials in Europe. In conclusion, 21 were identified as critical raw materials for the continent in the coming years. Of course, some of them are related to EV batteries. Some of the chemical elements considered strategic for Europe and the few countries where production is currently concentrated are Sb (China), Cr (South Africa), Co (D.R. Congo), Ga (China), Ge (China), Li (Chile), Nb (Brazil), rare earth elements (China), and W (China). In the case of the U.S.A., the Geological Service has published a list of 35 critical minerals (non-fuel minerals essential to the economic and national security, that has a vulnerable supply chain, and that serves a crucial function in the manufacturing of a product, the absence of which would have significant consequences for the economy or national security.), including Sb, Sn, Bi, Cs, Ge, Hf, In, Li, Nb, Pt, REE, Re, Ru, Sc, Sr, Ta, Sn, Ti, W, U, V, Zr, among others.
● Both situations push the market. Commodity prices have a clear tendency to increase. Materials, parts, structures, equipment, and infrastructure, in general, are becoming more expensive and are increasingly away from lower-income people.
● Consequences of the situation today are current news about:
o A strong rally in the share prices of metal and mining companies in many years.
o The exploitation of new lower ore grade mines. For example, in copper, the average ore grade has decreased circa 25% in a decade. Consequently, the total energy consumption increased 46%, but the production just raised over 30%.
o The Association of Chief Police Officers of the UK estimated 15.947 metal theft offenses between March 2019 and March 2020, with a cost of USD $488 million. Criminal actions mainly affect sectors as heritage, telecommunications, transport, and power.
However, the market is not able to solve all the problems correctly. The planet is not more enough for our requirements. Of the eight planets in our solar system, Earth is the fourth in size, bigger than Mercury and Mars, and a little bigger than Venus. The planet's total area is around 510 million km², and 70.8% is covered with water. There are only 148.9 million km² of land distribute in the five continents and islands. Recent estimations show that no more than 2.9% of the land surface can be considered to be faunally intact. Besides, only 20 -40% of the earth’s terrestrial surface is under low anthropogenic impact. A severe human footprint has already impacted more than half of the terrestrial surface. Conditions are becoming critical, the market knows, and it is impossible to wait any longer to act. Disruptive solutions must be implemented. Here, we can mention some of them: Protection of materials and assets. The importance of corrosion and anticorrosion measurements is becoming more salient than ever. Corrosionists are called to be fundamental in giving solutions to the above-described limitations. The circular economy is one of the most straightforward means at present offered. Materials and corrosion engineers are asked to lead action fronts as the life-span extension, reuse and remanufacturing options, and so. Also, issues concerning the Circular Economy as recycling and disposal of materials after the end of life open possibilities like urban mining. However, looking far beyond, the idea of extraterrestrial mining is gaining strength. But before, it is more obvious to look closer and consider our oceans.
The Blue Economy
Ours is the blue planet because of the predominance of the blue marble color given by the oceans when looking from space. In addition to land, Earth has just one great body of water surrounding the continents, divided by geographical reasons into five major regions or oceans: Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic, and Southern oceans. In total, 361 million km² storing 1350 million km³ of water, equivalent to 97% of the total worldwide. Oceans underwater is rugged mountains, vast plateaus, active volcanoes, and seemingly trenches, with average deep of 3.700 m. Landscapes are in an endless cycle of transformation. Indeed, the ocean provides humanity with “t sea” of opportunities and resources such as food, transportation, commerce, aquaculture, tourism, recreation, O&G, other energy sources, chemicals (particularly, drugs), and mining, the activities of the “Blue Economy.” But humans are from onshore, and the ocean is shocking. This only explains the timid approaches up to the appearance of some regional maritime commercial activities during the age of ancient Greece, followed by intercontinental shipping less than ten centuries ago. Then, the germination of the modern marine practice and science at the turn of the 19-20th centuries, associated with the emergency of laminated steel and cathodic protection of the steel ship hulls.
Experience with O&G and other energy sectors
Only over 70 years before ocean activities expanded from sea surface to deep sea, and O&G exploration started with the first drilling platform in the Mexico Gulf in 1947. Recent advances have allowed reaching a deep of 7.725 m drilling for research purposes and 3.628 m for O&G exploration off the Angola coast. As a result, the current global crude oil production is shared as 72% onshore and 28% offshore. Ocean engineering is improving quickly. Some of the coming tasks relate to exploration/exploitation moving from near shore to the far sea, from shallow waters to the deep sea, from low/middle to high latitude regions, and from fossil to renewable energies. Such a level of maturity in the O&G offshore industry achieves several technologies, valid for the sector itself and other ones like the wind energy industry. Examples of these developments are heavy regulations and standards, understanding some of the corrosive phenomena (effect of Co & H₂S, and MIC), materials selection, structural design, cathodic protection, and integrity management. The integration of many advances in underwater equipment and technology is ongoing with the recent development of subsea factories. These are complex structures built directly over the seafloor for an easier and more controlled O&G exploration and extraction operation. Sometimes these structures act as subsidiaries of external platforms (on or offshore) or independent operation plants.
Here, we are not talking about blue minerals (azurite, chalcanthite, chrysocolla, linarite, opal, smithsonite, turquoise, and vivianite, etc.), or the blue metal hard aggregate construction rock, neither a bluing gun, a blue painted steel sheet or blue materials at all. We want to answer how possible it is to get the minerals that humanity will require in the following decades from the oceans.Knowledge about metal-rich minerals under the seabed is not existing yet. However, there is information about mineral sources on the seafloor, basically three kinds of geological formations—massive sulfites, formed around geothermal regions; ferromanganese and cobalt-rich crust; and polymetallic nodules. Pushed by reasons as mentioned before and supported by the most recent technological developments, commercial firms, governments, and researchers are starting to look for possibilities of study and exploration of such seabed deposits and determine the extension in which they can be exploited in 10 or 20 years ahead.
Most of the issues have been mentioned in the newspapers currently because two separate expeditions integrated by industry and academy researchers, and licensed by the International Seabed Authority (a branch of the United Nations based in Jamaica), have started studying the Clarion-Clipperton Zone – CCZ. This is a six million km² region of the international water at the Pacific Ocean (the size of the continental U.S.A.) limited by Mexico, Hawaii, Kiribati, and the Clarion (North) and Clipperton (South) Fracture Zones. The CCZ is the most studied seafloor, between 4.000 and 6.000 m deep, littered with trillions of potato-size polymetallic nodules, whit an estimated weight of 21.000 million tons, each one containing high concentrations of Cu, Co, Mn, Li, and Ni.
The main reason for the current headlines in the newspapers is Greenpeace's protests against CCZ maneuvers. This Organization is frankly opposed to the exploration and exploitation of deep-ocean ecosystems. Besides, companies like BMW, Volvo, Samsung, and Google signed on to a WWF call for a ban on exploration purposes. Looking at the newspaper’s pictures, ships for the expeditions to the CCZ remember many the well-known dredgers. Many of us remember the bitter environmental experience of dredgers destroying a rich biodiverse environment desperately, for some carats of gold or platinum. But society needs gold for further development, including better health. As an example, recent researches show the efficiency of combinatorial cancer therapies applying plasmonic gold nanostructures. Here, again, contradictions upholding the need for a new model of economic development. We need such metals, but we also need to stop exploiting child laborers digging cobalt in the D.R. of Congo, stop toxic waste leaking from Ni mines in Indonesia, etc.
But, as Douglas McCauley, professor of Ocean Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, says, “Deep ocean ecosystems are the least resilient ecosystems on the planet. It’s a weird place, biologically speaking. The pace of life moves more slowly in the deep ocean than in any other place. Species live a long time, and ecosystems take a long time to recover.” Rationalism must be dominant. To impose informed over non-informed decisions, looking for a positive balance for all, society and nature. Studies are necessary for the right choices. Challenges for ocean engineering, materials engineering, corrosion engineering, economists, and many other disciplines. It is not only a duty of environmentalists. It is complex problems, and solutions must be complex, too. Blue materials can be an answer to the expectations of post-globalization times. Still, barriers are high, and overpassing has severe limitations facing the new economic model (with the predominance of knowledge, environmental, and societal factors). Options as Circular Economy are powerful, and in any way, Corrosionists are champions.
Remember: Protection of materials and equipment is a profitable business!
Prof. Carlos Arroyave, Ph.D. Editor.
Materials Biz News
Battery recycling is a good business
The ORBIA group (formerly Mexichem) has announced a venture capital investment of USD $20 million in Battery Resources, a company devoted to recycling and manufacturing Li-ion batteries. The purpose of the action is to develop a processing facility for processing 10.000 tons of batteries per year, equivalent to the battery disposal from 20.000 electric vehicles. As Materials.Business has mentioned, expectations about EV batteries recycling reach around 40% of the total production. However, and according to the American Chemical Society, less than 10% of Li-ion batteries are presently recycled. Besides, predictions about the EV market show an increase of more than 800% by 2030.
How far is the end of fossil fuels?
The condition of the Net-Zero Emissions target is “to neutralize the impact of any source of residual emissions that remains unfeasible to be eliminated by permanently removing an equivalent amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide.” It does not mean the end of fossil fuels; it means a big challenge, looking for using them but in the Clean Energy economy frame. Thinking about that, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy is doing a call for R&D funding of USD $6 million, entitled “Advanced Coal Waste Processing: Production of Coal-Enhanced Filaments or Resins for Advanced Manufacturing and Research and Development of Coal-Derived Graphite.” The main goal of the lab research and pilot scaling proposals to be submitted must be to find how to extract the total economic value from coal waste through novel technologies, leading to produce intermediate raw materials for additive manufacturing and graphite products for battery applications.
O&G is essential for the national and international economy, yet
For more than one century, in the Northwest corner of South America, Colombia has been a small producer and exporter of O&G. However, this sector has been immensely important for the country's economy. But a shortage of proven reserves along with declining production is threatening the national economy. After a national controversy, the news is that “Colombia is preparing for a fracking boom.” Worries about fracking had avoided the introduction of the technique to the country. Two years ago, it was accepted to proceed with pilot projects in some specific regions associated with the oldest Colombian oil basins in the middle of the country. According to the U.S. Geological Service, the undiscovered oil resources in this region could be up to 7.000 million barrels of unconventional crude oil resources (more than triple Colombia’s current proved reserves) and 13 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Ecopetrol, the national oil company, has launched a fracking pilot to be started during the second half of 2021, and ExxonMobil also announced its plans for developing a second one.
Position: Senior Materials & Processes Engineer
Location: Munich, Germany.
The basic profile of the candidate:
● Education: Degree in mechanical-, aerospace-, chemical-, materials engineering or similar (Ph.D./ M. Sc. preferred).
● Experience: Minimum of 7 years working in an aerospace M&P certification environment. Experience in defining material test standards and statistical design allowable development is a must.
Job description: Responsible for supporting the design and stress teams with material and process support for the metallic structure, including expert guidance in materials selection. Provide engineering expertise for general machining techniques, joining techniques, and corrosion protection. Responsible for driving qualification efforts and design allowable management, including the development of specifications, written test plan, and reports. Engineering focal for support manufacturing process industrialization, including metal forming selection, heat treatment selection, and failure analysis.
Position: Ph.D. Scholarship in Corrosion
Seeker: Swinburne University of technology
Location: Melbourne, Australia
The basic profile of the candidate:
● Skills: Analytical thinking, data analysis, and critical problem-solving skills; Excellent time management skills and ability to work independently. Ability to work as part of a multi-disciplinary research team; good oral and written communication skills. Applicants with publications will be highly regarded.
● Experience: Essential: Strong metallurgy and materials science background; Highly desirable: Experience in surface engineering, especially thermal spray coatings; Desirable: Experience in understanding and managing wear and corrosion processes; Desirable: Experience in using composite materials.
Job description: Swinburne’s ARC Training Centre in Surface Engineering for Advanced Materials (SEAM), led by Swinburne Distinguished Professor Chris Berndt, with 18 Chief Investigators, will be the first ARC-funded training Centre of its kind in Australia, delivering commercial benefits for industry. The Centre will integrate industry-university cooperation for applied training within an industrial setting, cover a spectrum of essential research themes and applications including biomaterials, graphene layering, high-temperature coatings, laser metal deposition for materials repair, and Industry 4.0 manufacturing processes, and aspires to provide pathways for job creation and a high-quality workforce in manufacturing.
Position: Asset Integrity Lead
Location: El Cairo, Egypt
The basic profile of the candidate:
● Education: B.Sc. Engineering Degree (Preferably in Materials or Metallurgical, though other Engineering degrees will be considered).
● Experience: 15 years experience in Oil & Gas Operations, including Asset Integrity experience. Minimum five years experience in a management position in Oil and Gas operations is a plus.
● Skills: Knowledge in all following areas and proficient in at least 3: corrosion and other degradation mechanisms, asset integrity management system framework, maintenance, inspection, process, production, design engineering, risk assessment, and quality. Relevant Inspector/Technologist/Specialist/other certifications awarded by API, ASME, AWS, ASNT, NACE, etc.
Networking & Knowledge Exchange
One more episode of the online series of free seminars hosted by the ASM Ontario Chapter will be held soon. The title of the speech is “Nuclear Fusion and the Difficult Life of Materials Close to Plasma.” The invited speaker is Greg De Temmerman. Greg is a materials science Ph.D. with almost 20 years of experience dealing with materials behavior under nuclear energy radiation. Since last December, he is the managing director of Zenon Research. Besides, he is recognized as a brilliant science communicator.
Date: Wednesday, May 5th, 2021.
Time: 13:00 EST (GMT - 4).
Diving deeper into fatigue problems. Virtual
Prof. Luca Susmel, from the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering of The University of Sheffield, and Editor-in-Chief of Theoretical and Applied Fracture Mechanics (Elsevier), is inviting to a new seminar about topics related to fracture mechanics. The next event will discuss the nature, limitations, and successes of the SWT (Smith Watson and Topper) fatigue damage parameter. The invited speakers are two specialists on fracture and fatigue from the University of Waterloo, Canada. Prof. Tim H. Topper from the Civil and Environmental School and Prof. Grzegorz Glinka from the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics.
Date: Friday, May 7th, 2021.
Time: 14:30 GMT.
The next seminar of the Spring Program 2021, organized by the European MIC Network, will be given by Prof. Guangming Jiang, Senior Lecturer of the School of Civil, Mining & Environmental Engineering at the University of Wollongong, Australia, since 2019. The speech will be dealing with the performance and mechanisms of a novel and highly corrosion-resistant bio-concrete for wastewater infrastructure.
Date: Tusday, May 11th, 2021.
Time: 14:30 CEST (GMT + 2).