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Chemical plant shifts gears to produce critical battery materials in the US — here's how it will fuel the EV revolution

To meet the work order, officials expect to add 200 jobs. 

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A Louisiana chemical plant operated by Koura is using a $100 million government grant to help jumpstart a project that could be big for battery material supplies here at home. 

The Department of Energy funding will be used to create a facility that produces a mouthful of a substance, called lithium hexafluorophosphate. It's an electrolyte salt needed for electric vehicle batteries to charge and discharge. 

Once operational, company officials claim the retrofitted plant will make enough electrolyte salts to help the U.S. produce a million EVs each year in a plant that may have otherwise been shuttered, per Lousiana Illuminator.

Koura, part of Orbia Advance's fluorinated solutions business, was visited in November by U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. She touted the St. Gabriel project as a "model for the nation" in regard to North American EV battery material supplies, according to a company press release. 

Many of the key metals needed for EV batteries, including lithium, graphite, and others, are produced and processed in China and other foreign markets. The international supply chain comes with uncontrollable variables, as recent graphite export rules in China have made clear. 

Researchers around the world are working on alternatives to some of the hard-to-gather and expensive battery components, using more common elements. Other research involves easier ways to harvest lithium, perhaps the most crucial battery part.  

The Koura operation would be the first of its kind in the U.S. to produce lithium hexafluorophosphate, per the Illuminator

"We are in the right position at the right time to be a key enabler in North America's energy transition," Orbia CEO Sameer Bharadwaj said in the company press release. 

Thomas Insights reported that the project will cost $400 million to complete.

When finished in 2026, the plant is estimated to make more than 11,000 tons of electrolyte salts each year. To meet the work order, officials expect to add 200 jobs, all per Koura. 

Koura's other product lines include refrigerants, medical propellants, and hydrofluoric acid. The company claims to be following some United Nations sustainability goals, including "climate action." Making crucial battery components stateside could be among the achievements with the greatest impact if the company realizes the vision.  

With EV sales hitting milestones and other cleaner transportation projects in development, such as electric airborne taxis, momentum is building for great innovations as we change the way we commute. 

Koura/Orbia officials said they can provide some of the key materials to power the progress. 

"We are able to bring security of supply to our work with industry partners to convert fluorine into a wide range of advanced battery materials," Orbia Fluorinated Solutions president Gregg Smith said in the press release. 

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