By Ernest Scheyder
(Reuters) - Caterpillar is investing in recycling technology developer Nth Cycle as part of a push to boost the reuse of metals used to make batteries and construction equipment.
The investment, announced on Monday, comes as part of a $44 million Series B round of financing in privately-held Nth Cycle, which is among a crop of firms racing to commercialize recycling methods for the green energy transition.
Massachusetts-based Nth Cycle's technology, designed to be used in a portable system it has branded 'Oyster,' utilizes an electrochemical process to selectively extract nickel and cobalt from scrap, batteries or mined rock.
Executives are marketing that versatility to mining companies and the electric vehicle industry.
Each Oyster facility is able to process 3,000 metric tons per year of material and produce 300 to 500 metric tons per year of nickel or cobalt, depending on the source material.
"The beauty of our system is that it's truly modular," Megan O'Connor, Nth Cycle's co-founder and CEO, said in an interview. "We want our customers to have options."
The first Oyster is being built in Ohio and expected to open in 2024. The company says that its process produces a lithium and graphite waste byproduct that it plans to sell, but reuses water and some acids.
The company's name is meant to evoke the mathematical term "nth" and point to the potential for metals to the continuously recycled.
Texas-based Caterpillar, which makes heavy machinery emblazoned with its iconic yellow paint, said Nth's Cycle's technology can "help get valuable materials" back into circulation.
"Caterpillar's collaboration with Nth Cycle supports our commitment to helping our customers achieve their climate-related objectives and establishing a circular value chain," said Rod Shurman, Caterpillar's senior vice president of electrification and energy solutions, in a statement released by Nth Cycle.
Norwegian oil giant Equinor, VoLo Earth Ventures, and MM Catalyst Fund I also participated in the Series B funding round. Equinor had invested in Nth Cycle's last funding round, announced in 2022.
(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)