Building a global mine-to-renewable energy business platform

IMG-20141022-00559When a kind word is spoken and praise is heaped upon a technology mining conglomerate by the doyen of the renewable energy sector, it doesn’t go unnoticed by our editorial team.

Grafoid CEO Gary Economo and his partner teams at Focus Graphite, Stria Lithium, Hydro-Quebec, Braille Battery and Alcereco are responsible for why I am writing a commentary that was published this week by Jim Greenberger, Executive Director of the National Alliance for Advanced Technology Batteries (“NAATBatt”)…to me, this is the most aggressive and revolutionary market to be in — as I stare at the remarkable sunrise in my room in New Orleans as I prepare for the New Orleans Investment Conference.

Last week, Grafoid, Focus Graphite and Stria Lithium – all clients of InvestorIntel – hosted NAATBatt’s first international event: a members site visit meeting and tour of Grafoid’s Global Technology Centre in Kingston, Ontario and a tour of the energy storage laboratory of Hydro-Quebec IREQ located outside Montreal.

Of note was Mr. Greenberger’s comment: “The joke among those NAATBatt members who attended is that Grafoid and Focus Graphite, which organized and hosted the meeting, have set the bar for these meetings so high that it may be difficult to get other members to host such meetings.”

Here’s an excerpt from Mr. Greenberger’s commentary:

“NAATBatt’s meeting began with a tour of the energy storage testing laboratory at Hydro-Quebec.

NAATBatt members have previously had the opportunity to tour other, impressive battery testing laboratories. But Hydro-Quebec’s laboratory is simply in a different class. Hydro-Quebec, an electric utility wholly-owned by the government of the Province of Quebec, has been working in lithium-ion battery technology since the 1980’s. It claims to hold about 90% of all patents in the area of basic lithium-ion technology and receives about $20 million per year in licensing revenues from those patents. That revenue, together with payments Hydro-Quebec receives from battery development partners, is continuously reinvested in its battery lab. The result, in terms of the sophistication and capabilities of the facility, is unprecedented.

The highlight of the Hydro-Quebec program for me was the lunch following the tour of the battery lab. NAATBatt members were joined at lunch by Karim Zaghib, the long–time Director of Energy Storage at Hydro-Quebec. Dr. Zaghib, who is recognized as one of the leading experts in the world in advanced battery technology, spent nearly an hour with NAATBatt members talking about advanced battery technology, where he thought it is headed, what he views as the greatest challenges and opportunities, and answering members’ questions about the technology. Dr. Zaghib also discussed Hydro-Quebec’s partnership with Grafoid, which focuses on enhancing the performance of lithium-ion cathode material by using graphene.

Members then boarded a bus for the drive to Kingston, Ontario. There, members toured the recently opened Grafoid Global Technology Centre, where Grafoid and several of its affiliated companies make and develop new applications for graphene.

Although members did not have a chance to see graphene being made (Grafoid uses a highly confidential and proprietary batch process to produce large quantities of graphene at low cost), members toured multiple labs where scientists from Grafoid and its affiliated companies are developing technology to embed graphene on surfaces and in the structures of various materials.

In conjunction with the tour, Gary Economo, the CEO of Grafoid, gave a talk about some of the applications that Grafoid is developing for graphene technology.

Several partners of Grafoid, including Braille Battery, Stria Lithium and Alcereco, spoke about how they were using graphene to enhance the performance of their products.

Members left the meeting at Grafoid with a real appreciation for the properties of graphene and how wide ranging its applications are likely to be in the future in advanced battery and other technologies.”

Gary Economo and Chairman Jeff York – Grafoid’s co-founders – began a mine-to-technology evolution in 2010 with a small, but globally important graphite property in Northern Quebec.

Today, Jeff and Gary are the custodians of an emerging renewable energy technology empire positioned in global markets to capture untold billions of dollars in future revenue from the electrification of automotive industries and consumer electronics.

Joining the Chicago-based NAATBatt family – the home of advanced electrochemical energy storage – was described to me by one member in attendance as “a visionary stroke of positioning genius.” If you ask me, taking lithium, graphite, rare earths & technology metals, and then owning some of the world’s most revolutionary graphene technological processes in the world….and then buying a battery storage solution — is something technology visionaries of our time like Steve Jobs would have wanted in on.

NAATBatt’s members represent an association of Grafoid’s and Focus Graphite’s potential customers – the battery manufacturing sector.

With the addition of Stria Lithium, which is rapidly advancing toward the creation of a proprietary lithium processing technology – the Grafoid platform has created a one-stop supply enterprise for battery manufacturers with graphite for anodes, lithium for electrodes and ultimately, MesoGraf™ graphene for the next generation of power units.

Committed to following this team as they build the first North American mine-to-renewable energy business platform, I applaud Mr. Greenberger’s incredibly astute assessment of what we as investors following the market are always seeking to find: the vision and leadership to build, deploy and exceed shareholder expectations. In this market, this kind of find is indeed the Holy Grail….