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    Anovion’s $800 Million Georgia Plant Aimed at Securing U.S. Graphite Supply

    May 19, 2023 - Global Atlanta


      Anovion CEO Eric Stopka signs an agreement with officials from Bainbridge and Decatur County in southwest Georgia. Photo: Anovion

      The only commercial producer of synthetic graphite in North America is putting an $800 million plant in Georgia as the U.S. ramps up efforts to reduce dependence on China for the key battery material.

      Chicago-based Anovion Battery Materials announced the investment in Bainbridge this week as the race for the critical minerals powering electric-vehicle batteries continues to heat up globally. The 1.5 million-square-foot plant will employ 400 people.

      The company’s decision to scale up from a single plant near Niagara Falls, N.Y. — one of the only U.S. facilities producing synthetic graphite commercially today — to a much larger operation in the southwest corner of Georgia comes after it was selected for $117 million Department of Energy grant funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

      It also comes as auto makers scramble to secure battery minerals and components in the U.S. or free-trade partner countries in order to comply with the Inflation Reduction Act.

      This year, half of the $7,500 tax incentive offered to buyers of EVs depends on at least 40 percent of the “critical minerals” like graphite being sourced from compliant countries; the threshold goes up 10 percent a year, hitting 80 percent in 2027.

      Graphite, which can be extracted from mines or produced synthetically from a petroleum byproduct called needle coke, is a key anode material that represents the most plentiful material in a lithium-ion battery. Graphite demand is expected to outstrip supply by more than 1.2 million tons by 2030 based on the roughly one terawatt of American battery production already announced, Anovion CEO Eric Stopka told Global Atlanta in an interview.

      “Today, there’s almost a negligible amount of that being produced in the United States,” Mr. Stopka said.

      Once up and making 40,000 metric tons per year, Anovion will have plenty of potential customers nearby: Georgia already has one ECV battery plant up and running, SK On’s $2.6 billion investment in Commerce, while a joint-venture plant between SK On and Hyundai Motor is now being built in Cartersville.

      In the way of automotive OEMs, Hyundai Motors is also building an EV plant near Savannah — the so-called “Meta Plant America” that will start production in 2025 and create 8,000 jobs — while Rivian plans to make its electric trucks in Covington.

      In the interview, Mr. Stopka wouldn’t name the company’s specific prospects, but did say discussions had been held with OEMs as well as “niche users” like the Department of Defense.

      “We see our primary growth vehicle as definitely focused on the electric vehicle space and the need to begin installing grid storage systems to support the push towards renewable energy,” Mr. Stopka said, noting that the company’s motto is “to secure the supply chain of the electrified future.”

      Most of the graphite processing in the world today resides in China, using older methods that don’t align with the demands of stakeholders today, who want to see a reduced carbon footprint across the battery value chain, supporting the climate argument behind the switch to EVs from gas-powered vehicles.

      Anovion, launched in March 2022 as a spinoff from Pyrotek Inc. and Amsted Graphite Materials, blends proprietary furnace technology and controls with a nimble, growth-oriented mentality, he said.

      “Being a fairly new company with existing technology, we’re not married to any old incumbent technology. Old incumbent technology is what’s currently being utilized in China, who controls over 90 percent of the graphite processing and production in the world today,” Mr. Stopka said.

      He added that the company’s internal “lifecycle assessments” show a lower emissions intensity in Anovion’s materials than those of both mined graphite and rival producers.

      That’s partially because most graphite used today for cell production in the United States is shipped from Asia across the world. Being in Bainbridge will make for a quicker trip from the plant to U.S. customers, drastically reducing emissions from logistics.

      Why Georgia?

      Logistics was just one factor in choosing Georgia out of 15 states from which Anovion began gathering proposals toward the end of last year. That list was trimmed to 10, then narrowed down to four prime candidate communities that company officials visited in person.

      Bainbridge had the right mix: available land to accommodate a 1.5 million square foot plant, good rail lines and barge access and a workforce that was “technically capable, trainable or upskill-able,” Mr. Stopka said.

      “We found sufficient workers in Decatur County that were currently leaving the county looking for other good quality jobs in other industries. We feel that we’ll be able to tap into that workforce initially, and allow people to work closer to their homes in the county itself,” he said.

      With most jobs requiring computer savvy and skills in operating and maintaining technical equipment, the long-term goal is to build a “sustainable pipeline of employment” by partnering with local high schools and technical colleges.

      Georgia’s moves to bolster its clean-energy supply also paid off, with new nuclear reactors coming online in Augusta and large-scale solar farms booming in the southern part of the state.

      “We were really impressed with the steps that were being taken on the grid to go from a fairly decarbonized footprint to even stronger in the future,” Mr. Stopka said. “That was really important to us, because we have a commitment to our customers to move towards a climate tech process, which is to eliminate as much greenhouse gas as possible.” The company has plans to be carbon neutral over the long run.

      The local community and the Georgia Department of Economic Development also made the company feel welcome, Mr. Stopka added.

      “I can tell you that every visit that we made to Bainbridge to have discussions about the project, the state was well represented, which to us showed a very strong support level,” he said. “The support from the city to the county to the state was very strong across the board.”

      Gov. Brian Kemp, whose plans to turn the state into the electric mobility capital of the U.S. also appealed to Anovion, welcomed the company to the state.

      “Job creators like them are recognizing that every corner of our state has the resources and workforce needed for success. Having met their team personally, I look forward to celebrating their partnership with the hardworking Georgians of Decatur County,” Mr. Kemp said in a statement.

      Anovion is also expanding its Center of Excellence and hydro-powered facility in New York as it scales up to meet demand.

      The views expressed in content distributed by Newstex and its re-distributors (collectively, "Newstex Authoritative Content") are solely those of the respective author(s) and not necessarily the views of Newstex et al. It is provided as general information only on an "AS IS" basis, without warranties and conferring no rights, which should not be relied upon as professional advice. Newstex et al. make no claims, promises or guarantees regarding its accuracy or completeness, nor as to the quality of the opinions and commentary contained therein.


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