Electric car battery plant eyed for St. Gabriel area

Staff Report

A facility in St. Gabriel is one of two Louisiana companies that were awarded $320 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding last week from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) to expand manufacturing of electric vehicle battery components.

Koura has been awarded $100 million to build the first U.S. manufacturing plant for lithium hexafluoridephosphate (LiPF6) on the grounds of the company’s existing site in St. Gabriel.

The new plant is expected to create up to 80 new jobs.

Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso said the Koura plant in St. Gabriel will transition to making components for electric vehicle batteries.

“Essentially, what this plant was making is being phased out over there, and so they had enough value that if they would not do something, they would move,” Iberville Parish President Mitchell Ourso said. “With the New Green Deal, that’s where it’s going.”

This facility will solve a critical risk in the supply chain for lithium-ion battery production in the United States, as there are currently no large-scale domestic producers of LiPF6 and all of it must be imported from Asia.

They are expected to produce enough LiPF6 for the domestic production of more than 1 million electric vehicles a year. 

As part of the fluorinated solutions business group of Orbia, a publicly traded global corporation with total revenues of $8.7 billion in 2021, Koura employs a Mine-to-Market capability to produce and distribute its fluorochemical products globally and it owns a vertically integrated North American supply of fluorine, the primary component of LiPF6. Koura’s proposed plant will produce up to 10,000 metric tons of LiPF6 a year, which is sufficient to support domestic production of more than 1 million full electric vehicles (EVs) annually. Furthermore, Koura’s LiPF6 plant will have a secure access to critical minerals and downstream processing to establish domestic production of LiPF6.

It will also utilize vertical integration, recycling, and state-of-the-art manufacturing to achieve production economics that will be competitive with foreign products. This capability will support the broader development of a resilient and stable domestic lithium-ion battery supply chain and reduce the need for Asian imports, providing direct benefits to automotive companies that are producing EVs to reduce the use of fossil fuels.

Koura has been operating a domestic fluorochemical plant in St. Gabriel since 1991.

In addition to the funding to Koura, a $220 million award went to Syrah Technologies for construction of a new facility in the Concordia Parish town of Vidalia to expand production of Active Anode Material (AAM), derived from graphite, which is a key component of lithium-ion batteries.

Over two phases, the new facility is expected to create 221 jobs in Vidalia. Construction is already underway, with start of production expected in the third quarter of 2023. Syrah’s Vidalia facility will be the only vertically integrated and large-scale natural graphite AAM outside China.

These massive investments will have transformational impacts in Vidalia and St. Gabriel and create hundreds of jobs,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “This is another step forward in our important work to diversify and grow Louisiana’s economy, create good-paying jobs, and become leaders in the global energy transition as we move toward our goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“I would like to thank U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm for awarding Louisiana this funding, and I would also like to thank President Biden, Senator Bill Cassidy, and Representative Troy Carter for their support of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that made this possible,” he said.