With all major auto makers ramping up plans to switch production to electric vehicles, battery demand looks set soar — and with it demand for the base metals needed to produce them.
The Metals Company (Nasdaq: TMC) believes that the demand for these metals can be met by collecting polymetallic nodules from the ocean floor.
As we reported last year, the Vancouver, B.C., based company, previously known as DeepGreen Metals, has partnered with Allseas Group S.A. in a project that involves conversion of the former Petrobras ultra-deepwater drillship Vitoria 10000 to a polymetallic nodule collection vessel.
That vessel is now the Hidden Gem and at an event in Rotterdam last week, cohosted by Allseasm stakeholders were given the opportunity to tour the pilot polymetallic nodule collection vessel, and the facility where the prototype of a 12-meter long nodule collector vehicle is being built.
FIRST ABS CLASSED SUBSEA MINING VESSEL
The 228-meter Hidden Gem is expected to become the first ship classed as a subsea mining vessel by ABS, It is currently undergoing key modifications to enable at-sea deployment through its existing moonpool of a 4.3-kilometer-long riser that would bring polymetallic nodules up from the seafloor. Allseas engineers have also integrated a launch and recovery system for the twelve-meter-long nodule collector vehicle that would enable it to be deployed over the side of the vessel.
Both the Hidden Gem and the nodule collector vehicle are key components of the TMC/Allseas partnership’s efforts to responsibly recover polymetallic nodules from the ocean floor and lift them to the surface for transportation to shore for processing.
“We’ve studied this industry very carefully for many years and when we gained the certainty as engineers that this can work, we really went for it,” said Edward Heerema, founder and president of Allseas. “There is no better solution than the conversion of the Hidden Gem for the first nodule production ship and the development of the collector vehicle and vertical transportation system are currently in a stage that we are very comfortable with.”
COLLECTION TESTS BY 2022
Allseas current schedule has the Hidden Gem being deployed in the Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the Pacific to undertake collection tests in mid-2022. TMC says that the estimated in situ resource on the seafloor in the exploration contract areas held by its subsidiaries is sufficient for 280 million EVs – roughly the entire U.S. passenger vehicle fleet.
“One of the great opportunities we have in getting this industry started is the conversion of assets from the oil and gas industry, which enables us to reach our milestones with significantly less capital expense,” said Gerard Barron, Chairman and CEO of The Metals Company. “It was an honor to be able to showcase the incredible ingenuity of Allseas engineering for our key stakeholders, to see the collector coming to life and to stand onboard the Hidden Gem and witness her transformation firsthand. The fact that she will be ready for trials next year and for production in what we anticipate will be 2024 is tremendously exciting.”