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  • Writer's pictureStaff @ LT&C

EV battery manufacturing transforms dying louisiana chemical plant

Electric vehicle (EV) batteries are considered one of America's next frontiers when it comes to a national effort to transition, at least in part, to green-energy. Lithium-ion batteries are often mined in Africa and made in China, but that could all change very soon.

A chemical plant in south Louisiana was saved from downsizing or closure by becoming America’s first domestic manufacturer of critical lithium battery materials. Thanks to new federal infrastructure investments, Koura Global will retrofit their existing facilities to manufacture lithium hexafluorophosphate (LiPF6), a primary component in lithium-ion batteries. When finished, the plant is expected to make enough of the component to make over a million EV batteries a year.

U.S. Rep Troy Carter, D-Louisiana, who represents the 2nd Congressional District between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, told Koura’s employees Friday that their work will address a “critical gap in our domestic supply chain” for lithium-ion batteries.

A $100 million U.S. Department of Energy grant was made available by the Biden administration, and is known as the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA). The plan is the country’s largest federal infrastructure investment in decades, and will allow the company to construct new facilities at the plant to pivot into the battery industry, according to Koura executive Erick Comeaux.

Federal, state and local leaders visited the Koura plant Friday to celebrate the news. The group included Carter, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Gov. John Bel Edwards and St. Gabriel Mayor Lionel Johnson.

Lithium and cobalt are known as critical components of lithium-ion batteries, most of which come from Africa and China. The Energy Department has plans to expand domestic mining of those minerals and try to source them from countries already mining the minerals, Granholm said.

Edwards said the investments made by the federal government have strengthened Louisiana like never before, especially the economy. Louisiana is not only experiencing the most people ever employed in the state’s history, but reaping the benefits of $50 billion of low-carbon energy projects that have been funded in state, he said.

The governor pointed out Louisiana is the only state in the southeast with a climate action plan, and said other states should embrace the energy transition or risk missing out.

The federal grant money, combined with Koura’s investment, is estimated to be a $400 million project. With construction expected to begin next year, the plant will double its current workforce to roughly 160 employees and 40 full-time contractors.


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