NioCorp Developments Ltd. and IBC Advanced Alloys Corp. announce that they have entered into a joint development agreement to investigate and develop applications for scandium-containing alloys for multiple downstream markets.
Scandium is a transition metal (element #21) that can provide many powerful benefits to industries such as commercial aviation, automotive, precision manufacturing, defense, electronics, and others. When alloyed with aluminum, for example, it can increase the strength and weldability of the aluminum used in commercial airliners, which in turn can reduce a plane’s weight, fuel consumption, and emissions per passenger mile. ONG Commodities LLC (“ONG”) has estimated that $1.0-$1.5 million of scandium oxide in a Boeing 737NG single-aisle airliner can offer $10-15 million of net present value in fuel savings alone. (Stimate is based on a B737NG flying 3000-4000 hours per year, and a long-term jet fuel price of $2-3/gallon. Savings potential is greater in long-haul aircraft with higher overall utilization.)
Scandium is scarcely used today because global production is severely constrained and unreliable. The U.S. Geological Survey recently estimated that only 10-15 tonnes (11-16 U.S. tons) per year of scandium are now produced. However, independent experts such as ONG estimate that latent demand in the aerospace and solid oxide fuel cell sectors alone is several hundred tonnes per year.
NioCorp expects to come online as one of the world’s leading producers of scandium from its Elk Creek, Nebraska Superalloy Materials Project, potentially producing as much as 97 tonnes/year (106 tons/year). IBC is a leading advanced alloys company that produces high-performance alloys in a range of product forms for multiple industries and platforms, including cast components for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The joint development agreement announced today signals the companies’ intent to collaborate in ensuring a reliable and secure U.S. supply of scandium and catalyzing greater scandium use across a variety of industries.
President of IBC Engineered Materials Chris Huskamp, will be leading the joint development effort for IBC. Huskamp is a former Boeing Associate Technical Fellow in advanced metallic processes who is credited as a named co-inventor of two pending patents regarding scandium-bearing aluminum alloys. The first pending patent can be seen here, and the second one can be seen here.
Scott Honan, VP of Business Development of NioCorp and president of Elk Creek Resources Corporation, will manage the initiative for NioCorp. Honan is leading the effort to develop and build NioCorp’s niobium / scandium / titanium mine and processing facility in Nebraska, and has more than a decade of experience in producing advanced materials that are used in high-performance alloys.
“This joint development effort should deliver value both to NioCorp and IBC, and it highlights the powerful industrial logic of an upstream materials company jointly developing applications with a downstream advanced alloys producer like IBC,” said Mark A. Smith, CEO and Executive Chairman of NioCorp. “NioCorp intends to establish a secure and reliable supply chain for scandium, and our partnership with IBC will leverage our ability to simultaneously accelerate applications development and market uptake of our scandium production.”
“Advanced alloys are continuing to revolutionize many industries, and IBC’s strategic goal is to catalyze new applications for scandium-containing alloys so that we can expand our markets beyond those we are now able to address with advanced beryllium and copper alloys,” said Major General David “Duncan” Heinz (USMC, ret.), CEO of IBC. “The establishment of a reliable and secure scandium supply chain from NioCorp in the United States, coupled with our team’s world-class experience with scandium-containing and other advanced alloys, make this joint development effort very attractive for our two companies and for U.S. industries as a whole.”
“We intend to grow a whole new class of advanced products made here in the U.S from our superalloys,” Heinz said. “Not only will IBC products help meet a growing market demand for advanced alloys, but they also will help address some of the world’s greatest problems, such as climate change and reliance on fossil fuels. By providing greater strength and reduced weight, our advanced alloys increase fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas and other emissions. They deliver real and measurable results today in the effort to tackle these enormous global challenges.”
Filed Under: Materials • advanced