IperionX’s mission is to sustainably re-shore critical material supply chains to the U.S., starting with titanium.
The global titanium supply chain is complex and fragmented. While the U.S. is a major producer and consumer of finished titanium products, the U.S. is wholly reliant on imports for upstream feedstock. IperionX aims to solve that by offering a 100% recycled, integrated and low-cost supply chain in the U.S.
We control patented, proprietary titanium metal processing technologies that are proven at pilot scale to be capable of producing high-quality titanium powders at lower cost, with lower carbon emissions, and with shorter process times than the conventional Kroll Process method to produce titanium.
IperionX is rapidly optimizing and scaling its titanium production capacity from its Titanium Pilot Facility in Utah, where it currently produces low-oxygen titanium powders from titanium scrap.
In addition to its entirely new technology to process titanium powder, IperionX controls a large land package on an untapped critical mineralization trend in Tennessee. Testing at this critical mineral project shows that it contains large reserves of titanium and rare earth elements. Because these critical minerals are found near the surface of the land in the form of heavy mineral sands, they are cheaper, more sustainable, and easier to extract than conventional hard rock deposits of other minerals like copper and gold.
IperionX’s patented technology was developed at the University of Utah in p artnership with Boeing and Arconic. Its development was funded with US$13m from A RPA-E and DOE over more than a decade. A corporate entity, Blacksand Technology LLC, was spun out of the University by the inventors to hold exclusive licenses to c ommercialize the technology and related intellectual property. IperionX has ente red into exclusive agreements with Blacksand to develop the technologies, and has an exclusive o ption to purchase the company and its intellectual property rights.
We believe that our new Titanium Demonstration Facility will produce enough material to enable us to establish beachhead markets in additive manufacturing a nd MIM markets, which have lower entry barriers than aerospace and defense.
We hope to see that impact by 2023, and as we scale, to take market share from stainless steel and aluminum markets. Our aim is to be a meaningful player in the domestic titanium supply chain by 2025. We hope to accelerate this timeline as the market becomes aware of the capability of our technology.
Bottlenecks are on both the feedstock side and the process efficiency/cost/emissio ns side.
In terms of inputs to the titanium manufacturing process, secure access to low-cost feedstocks is important. The primary bottleneck to re-shoring Kroll in the U. S. is upstream mineral and sponge supply – the U.S. does not presently have significant upstream capacity or controlled access to feedstocks.
USGS estimates that in 2021, Ukraine contributed 15% of global rutile prod uction and 5% of global ilmenite production. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has cut off this sup ply and will cause significant raw material cost inflation – compounded by the current high shipping cost environment.
IperionX aims to solve the domestic feedstock problem. First, our mineral resource in Tennessee contains potentially vast titanium mineral feedstock in its rutile and ilm enite. Second, with our patented technologies, we can also use cheap and widely available titanium scrap to produce high-quality recycled titanium. Finally, because of our technology, we’re able to use a higher proportion of feedstocks that would o therwise go to ferro-titanium or waste when compared to industry incumbents.
If VSMPO is fully cut off, bottlenecks would expand to include melting capacity a t western mills. Some idled melting facilities would need to be restarted and would use a disproportionate amount of sponge to produce titanium products at higher costs than previously available in the global market. Furthermore, the loss of scrap generated fro m VSMPO products in the West would reduce scrap availability, further driving spo nge demand.
The primary challenge in producing pure titanium is its affinity for oxygen. The Kroll Process takes a “brute – force” approach to oxygen removal, requires many process steps, with multiple high-temperature melts to achieve low O2, and is highly energy intensive as a result. The ability to de oxygenate titanium is fundamental to our technology, which allows us to use far more recycled titanium and beat market quality specifications.
Kroll is a convoluted and complicated process that uses harsh and dangerous chemicals. Industrial plants that use the Kroll Process are difficult to commission, operate, and maintain.
Our process uses hydrogen and magnesium rather than chloride and carbon. It destabilizes the Ti – O bond and significantly increases the thermodynamic favorability for removal of oxygen from titanium.
Our process produces a cheaper, faster, and lower-carbon titanium powder product of the same or higher quality than what Kroll produces. As a result, we believe that a full- scale commercial plant will cost a fraction of an equivalent Kroll plant. A simple comparison of IperionX’s potential supply chain vs. conventional supply chains is shown in Figure 7 below.
Scrap recycling is made difficult for the same reasons the Kroll process is challenging – it is inefficient, expensive, time consuming, and highly carbon intensive to remove the oxygen from scrap to produce pure titanium using conventional methods. Most titanium scrap is Ti-64, an alloy comprised of titanium, aluminum, and vanadium , and therefore finding scrap sources to produce commercially pure titanium or other alloys can be difficult. A high-level summary of titanium scrap re-circulation is shown in Figure 8 below.
IperionX’s technology provides a suite of tools to work with going from mineral to metal, and this allows us to bring in scrap with a wide range of quality. Depending on the incoming scrap quality, we can do more or less pre-processing to clean up the scrap before adjusting the final particle size distribution and morphology as needed, a nd de-oxygenating to meet customer specifications.
At this point there is sufficient scrap to meet titanium demand but – as we scale production and take market share from stainless steel and aluminum – we will need to activate our Titan project to ramp titanium metal production. Over time, we predict the vast majority of these minerals to metal will become a closed loop.
We aim to scale aggressively from our successful Titanium Pilot Facility to a larger Titanium Demonstration Facility this year, and then onto a much larger commercial scale facility thereafter.
Our current Titanium Pilot Facility in Salt Lake City, UT, is expected to increase metal powder production by 10x to over 30kg per week by end of Q1 2022. Production is expected to further increase to 125kg per week by the end of Q2 2 022, which is only limited by the operational run rate of the current installed furnace undertaking the proprietary HAMR process.
As a result of the success of the scaling of our Titanium Pilot Facility, planning is well progressed to build a Titanium Demonstration Facility (‘TDF)’ with an initial target capacity of 65tpa by the end of 2022. The Titanium Demonstration Facility will scale the HAMR process primarily through the acquisition and commissioning of a larger, off-t he- shelf, low temperature furnace. The TDF design will be modular, allowing f or low risk, staged production capacity expansions, primarily through the commissioning of additional low temperature furnace capacity.
We are also in the early stages of designing and engineering a larger commercial scale facility, along with financing it. At this moment, we are engaged in dialogues with potential end users who have expressed commercial interest in our future product. We are in the process of producing and shipping samples to these counter parties for testing, and plan to convert commercial dialogues into contracted off take agreements in the near term.
Our technology has two main inputs:
- Scrap titanium; and
- TiO 2 minerals, which we plan to source from our mineral properties in Tennessee.
We process these inputs to create angular and spherical titanium powder in commercially pure titanium, and various titanium alloys to be used in applications including additive manufacturing and powder metallurgy.
Our initial focus is on getting beachhead customers within the titanium additive manufacturing market which has fewer regulations and barriers to entry compared to aerospace. As we grow and continue to scale, we would then have a competitive price point where we could compete and pull market share from aluminum and stainless-steel markets.
Titanium & the Metals Industry
Titanium is a versatile material that is used in a variety of different products. It is as strong as steel but 40% lighter. Titanium has a low density and the ability to withstand extreme temperatures. It is also corrosion resistant. These features allow titanium to be used in desalination plants and to protect the hulls of ships, submarines, an d other structures exposed to seawater. Titanium is also an alloying agent, meaning it will retain the necessary properties of titanium even when combined with other meta ls. These titanium alloys are used in aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles. They are also used in everyday products such as golf clubs, laptops, bicycles, and crutches. Titanium metal connects well with bone, so it is used in the medical field for surgical application s such as joint replacements and tooth implants. The largest use of titanium is in the form of titanium(IV) oxide. It is extensively used as a pigment in paints, plastics, enamel and paper.
The titanium supply chain is a critical issue for the U.S. defense industrial base as there is no primary commercial domestic titanium metal production. 70% of titanium metal production is now controlled by China & Russia. The United States currently ha s zero feedstock of titanium. The U.S. is completely import reliant for this critical mineral.
The titanium supply chain has several steps:
- TiO 2 bearing minerals ilmenite and rutile that are the basic feedstocks;
- Titanium Sponge Metal – the primary metal feedstock, made from mineral ores;
- Titanium Ingots/Melted Products – melted down from sponge metal and scrap;
- Mill Products – which are manufactured from ingots, typically via subtractive (or additive) manufacturing methods, which produce large amounts of machining scrap; and
- Scrap – the waste metal produced by machining ingots to final products. Scrap accounts for a significant material loss in the supply chain, and in some subtractive manufacturing cases 50%+ of the ingot is lost to scrap. The current scrap re-circulation rate is less than 70%.
The global titanium supply chain flows from Minerals to Sponge to Ingots/Melted Products to Mill Products and into end-use applications across major sectors like aerospace, defense, and consumer products.
Whole segments of the U.S. titanium supply chain have moved overseas – the U.S. has become wholly dependent on imported sponge feedstock for our downstream titanium manufacturing supply chain.
The U.S. is one of the largest consumers of finished titanium metal products, primarily for highly strategic industries like defense and aerospace, yet the U.S relies heavily on foreign-controlled supply chains for our metal. It is possible for the U.S. to meet its own needs with domestic production. We have both the upstream mineral endowment and the technology/capacity to produce finished products, but there are two problem s: (1) the U.S doesn’t have a fully integrated supply chain; and (2) the U.S. cannot produce titanium sustainably or efficiently with the current titanium production process (Kroll Process).
IperionX aims to solve these supply chain gaps by offering a sustainable mineral- to- clean metal solution within the U.S. While our titanium resource in Tennessee will potentially solve the domestic mineral feedstock issue, our patented technology can also efficiently produce titanium in a closed-loop process entirely from scrap. To our knowledge, this technology is not commercially available today.
China and Africa dominate mining of heavy mineral sands for ilmenite and rutile feedstock. Together, these regions accounted for more than 60% of global mineral concentrate supply in 2020.
Japan is the primary source of U.S. sponge, providing an average of ~88% o f U.S. imports from 2017 to 2020. Kazakhstan was the second largest source o f U.S imported sponge at ~8%, and Ukraine provided ~3%, based on USGS data. Primary sponge exporters are Osaka (Japan), Toho (Japan), and UKTMP (Kazakhstan).
INGOTS & MELT PRODUCTS
The U.S was the second largest global producer of melted products in 2020 af ter China and followed closely by Russia. Major ingot producers include Baoji Titanium (China), VSMPO (Russia), Timet (Global), ATI (U.S.), Howmet (U.S.), UKTMP (Kazakhstan), Aubert & Duval (France), and Perryman (U.S.).
Titanium scrap is mostly owned by Aero Airframe and Engine OEMs in closed loop scrap deals with other supply chain participants. Major titanium scrap “processors” (and limited trading of open scrap) include ELG/Utica (Global), IMET (U.S. & Europe), Goldman Titanium (U.S.), Keywell (U.S.), and PCC Revert/Timet (Global).
The complexity of today’s titanium supply chain makes titanium more energy intensive, more expensive, and less sustainable compared to other metals like stainless steel and aluminum. IperionX’s mission is to revolutionize that complex supply chain with its proprietary breakthrough technology. That technology, HAMR (Hydrogen Assisted Metallothermic Reduction) , was developed, with investment from ARPA-E and DOE in excess of US$13m over more than a decade, by leading material scientists at the University of Utah in partnership with Boeing and Arconic.
HAMR’s breakthrough is that it can produce low -oxygen titanium angular and spherical powders for the fast-growing and future-facing additive manufacturing market. In addition, HAMR’s ancillary technologies can produce ingot, billet, plates, and other near -net-shape products directly via powder metallurgy, for potential future sales into more developed markets like aerospace and defense.
Scientists at the University of Utah estimate that the HAMR technology can reduce energy consumption by 50%, drop the cost of titanium metal by 50% and increase the total titanium metal scrap recirculation rate from approximately 68% to much closer to 100%. HAMR can also produce 100% recycled titanium from scrap and is doing so right now in Utah at our Titanium Pilot Facility. HAMR provides a potential pathway to zero carbon titanium that is far ahead of steel and aluminum.
Our initial focus is on the titanium metal powder market for 3D printing and metal injection molding (MIM) – lower volume, but high margin markets. From there, we intend to expand into the larger automotive and transportation, aerospace and defense, and consumer goods markets. Aerospace will be important to us, initially for defense, and later in commercial – but we see a wide range of high margin, low risk opportunities before we move into this sector. To our knowledge, no commercial process today can recycle 100% of titanium and produce these powders – we believe this is a core competitive advantage.
In addition to its breakthrough metal processing technology, IperionX controls a significant titanium and rare earth element mineral resource on a large-scale, untapped critical mineral trend in Tennessee. This domestic upstream supply positions IperionX as one of leading potential sources of an integrated, mineral- to-metal supply chain in the U.S.
IperionX’s ultimate goal is to scale to larger volumes of production to facilitate a step change in the cost of titanium metal. Titanium’s high cost is the primary reason it is not more widely used today – IperionX aims to challenge that and take market share from steel and aluminum, which are inferior-performance metals.
The wrought processing route to produce milled products is well established and, although it is a difficult process, it has been refined and optimized over decades to overcome technical challenges. There are still significant issues and inefficiencies with the process, including yield loss, extreme energy intensity, and high capital and operating costs.
The downstream steps include multiple vacuum arc remelt (VAR) steps, multiple thermomechanical processing steps to produce milled products, leading to high energy and machining costs. There is also significant waste through this process – in some cases as much as 50% – and that scrap material cannot be fully recycled using the conventional Kroll Process. We estimate that titanium scrap has a re-circulation rate of less than 70% – a key supply chain issue we aim to solve.
Our initial focus is non-aero-grade applications as we ramp production and fully characterize our product in various forms. There are lower barriers to entry in these markets compared to the aerospace market. That being said, we are also working to develop aero-grade production capacity in parallel to our broader commercialization efforts.
China and Russia have one key advantage over the U.S. – the integration of their supply chain from mineral to metal. Right now, the U.S. possesses only downstream production — however, we believe there’s significant potential for a mineral -to-metal integrated supply chain in the U.S. and we aim to provide just that.
While China and Russia do have upstream supply, the titanium mineral operations in these countries are believed to be high-cost.
China’s mineral supply is almost exclusively low -grade ilmenite, and we believe their grade profile will continue to decline over time. Russia has very limited commercial deposits and gets the majority of its titanium mineral sands from Ukraine, who is estimated by USGS to be among the largest sources globally for high-grade TiO 2 mineral feedstock in the form of rutile.
China’s labor and energy subsidies help their cost base, but IperionX’s HAMR process, integrated with our domestic source of mineral feedstock, shows potential to be highly competitive on both cost and carbon emissions.
The U.S. has substantial downstream mill and ingot capacity, and our land package in Tennessee shows strong potential to supply the mineral feedstock necessary to satisfy this downstream capacity. With our technology and mineral feedstock, we believe we can satisfy all our domestic market titanium needs from mineral- to-metal in the U.S.
The Kroll process can be re-shored, but it’s inherently both very expensive and unsustainable. Kroll consumes high amounts of energy and toxic chemicals, produces high emissions, and operates with high OPEX.
We know the following from publicly available information about the two Japanese titanium producers. They both have full Aerospace (airframe and rotating) approvals and have both expanded capacity in the last decade. Both are reliant on imported ore. Toho has recently formed a JV with Tronox and have been the technology partner in the new Kroll sponge facility in Saudi Arabia.
Our suite of technologies potentially allows us to completely bypass the tradition al route and suppliers for traditional wrought processing of titanium. One key point is that we aim to be able to consolidate, streamline, or shorten the supply chain to reduce reliance upon multiple suppliers for various process steps. Our technology can go directly to titanium powders and bypass traditional (and costly) steps to go from ingot, to billet, to bar, to powder. Our technology can facilitate and optimize the mineral- to-metal supply chain in one vertically integrated business, rather than multiple separate entities serving individual process steps.
Our understanding from publicly available sources, is that Chinese sponge is generally lower quality than Russian and Japanese sponge, and it is not aerospace grade. Chinese sponge is mostly used for their own domestic industrial market (commercially pure) as well as for domestic military and commercial aerospace applications (Ti64).
Yes – globally significant amounts of mineral feedstock (ilmenite and rutile) supply comes from Ukraine, the disruption of which will likely be felt across the downstream industry. Russia is among the largest producer of titanium mill products for the global aerospace sector – disruption of titanium mill product supply will reverberate across global aerospace markets, along with other titanium end-markets as aerospace buyers cannibalize alternative titanium supply wherever technically and economically feasible.
Our Titanium Power
IperionX produces a variety of end products, but our main focus is cu rrently titanium metal powder. We are able to supply both spherical or non-spherical (often referred to as angular) powders; either as CP-Ti or Ti-6Al-4V alloy.
While there are slight differences in processing, the biggest difference is in the shape and morphology of the powder. The difference in shape allows the powder to be used for different end use products. Spherical powder is highly desired in additive manufacturing processes for its ability to flow well, while angular powder is used as an alternative feedstock for more traditional manufacturing methods.
IperionX stands above and apart for a few reasons. First, IperionX is a “m ine to market” US based supplier of titanium and is focused on re-shoring titanium metal productio n. Feedstock for our process is sourced and processed in the USA. Furthermore, IperionX uses a patented new technology that allows for the production of low-cost nea r carbon zero titanium metal powder. How does the cost-competitiveness of your product compare to other sources? How does that change as you scale?
Current spherical powder pricing is typically in the $150/kg to $250/kg range – our Titanium Pilot Facility has produced powders at a fraction of that cost, which w e believe will only come down further as we scale our production. At full scale, we are aiming to be significantly cheaper than Kroll for production of primary titanium as well.
Our Minerals Project in West Tennessee
Our mineral resources, The Titan Project, are hosted within what is known as the McNairy Sand formation in Western Tennessee. The Titan Project is the largest titanium, zircon, and rare earth minerals project in the USA. Located in one of the m ost important mineral-rich areas of the United States, the Titan Project covers a larg e area of titanium and zircon prospective heavy mineral sands properties in Ten nessee. It is strategically located in the southeast of the United States in West Tennessee. Additional information about our mineral resource estimate can be found in our ASX Announcement dated October 10 th , 2021.
The mineral potential of the formation was known to members of the IperionX team as historic exploration work was conducted in the region decades ago. Advances in modern mineral extraction technology, as well as increasing commodity prices over the last 20 years, have given the region stronger economic potential for mineral extraction than existed previously when prior operators were involved.
The rare earth-bearing monazite/xenotime minerals in the region are substantially higher grade than other similar deposits world-wide. Historically, this materia l was undervalued and occasionally considered waste. That has changed over the last 10 years as rare earth element prices have increased substantially due to emerging su pply shortages and their extensive usage in future-facing applications ranging f rom electric vehicles and wind turbines to smart-phones and MRI machines.
Unlike certain times in the recent past, the US is now a highly competitive location for business and, in particular, for mineral sands. Relative production costs and the quality of the deposit are vitally important. Cost inflation seen in major producing countries is putting upward pressure on the global production cost curve. For example, modestly skilled labor in Western Australia mines costs over US$150k on an all-in basis, and more skilled labor well over US$200k per year. In Australia, electricity costs are substantially higher than in the US and are inflating at a higher rate.
A combination of factors led us to believe the time is right for West Tennessee, including:
- Increased processing efficiency of heavy mineral sands deposits;
- Significant REE endowment, including high-value heavy rare earths not commonly found in hard rock deposits;
- Changing metal market dynamics and improved pricing environments; and
- The growing need to re-shore critical material supply chains to American soil.
Operations in West Tennessee
One hundred miles west of Nashville, in West Tennessee, is the McNairy Sand . This area has excellent infrastructure including roads, power, water, and skilled labor to support the project.
We identify prospective properties by overlaying them with the McNairy sand lay er to verify the land host mineralized unit. Very little surface expression of the m ineralization exists. This is why we are forced to investigate our prospect via sonic core drilling. If you would like to know if your property falls within the McNairy sand layer, please ca ll our offices at 731-213-2290 or visit us at 279 W. Main Street in Camden, TN.
It depends on location and permitting requirements. Please call our off ices at 731-213- 2290 or visit us at 279 W. Main Street in Camden, TN to discuss your property.
Our goal with the reclamation and rehabilitation process is to restore the land to even better than it was before mineral extraction. We do this by first backfilling the mining void with approximately 95-98% of quartz sand then re contouring the land back to its original topography. Next, the topsoil is replaced and the soil is rehabilitate d. The final step is to plant vegetation native to the region.
No. We have several safety measures in place to ensure the local water sources will not be affected.
We believe IperionX and the Titan Project will provide a significant boost to the economy in the region. Our operation will rely on the support of many small businesses in the area. Our business will enable and enrich skilled manufacturing jobs as well as the need to expand training programs for workers. These factors should positively impact real estate values and economic growth. We believe IperionX a nd the Titan Project will generate jobs, tax benefits, and general business growth. This will enhance the economic growth of the counties.
We will be hiring a variety of jobs including:
- Heavy Equipment Operators
- Human Resources
- Information Technology Personnel
- Material Handlers
- Environmental Specialists
We plan to begin hiring in 2024. If this changes, we will be sure to inform members of the community. To stay up to date on all West Tennessee news, sign up for our newsletter.
IperionX is strongly committed to youth involvement and interaction and currently sponsors many local youth programs. Our personnel regularly participate in local school programs and presentations. IperionX is also actively participating in scholarship and internship programs with several colleges and technical schools. We are currently developing educational initiatives that will provide several more opportunities for the youth of West Tennessee.
IperionX is committed to transparency and honesty within the communities and its citizens. We regularly hold informational sessions and update the community on a regular basis through community forums, local media announcements, social media, radio, mailers, seminars, presentations, and demonstrations.
Please visit our website, social media, come by our location at 299 W. Main Street in Camden, TN or call our office at 731-213-2290 to learn more.