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Graphite One Selects Niles Site for $435M Anode Manufacturing Plant

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NILES, Ohio – A company that develops graphite anode materials used in batteries for electric vehicles and other energy storage devices says it wants to build an advanced materials plant here that would initially create 160 jobs.

Graphite One Inc., based in Vancouver, British Columbia, said its Alaska-based U.S. subsidiary has entered into an agreement to lease 85 acres at the former Warren Depot site in Weathersfield Township, which once stockpiled materials for the U.S. Department of Defense.

“Graphite One is delighted to announce that, subject to financing, we will be building our advanced graphite material processing plant in northeast Ohio as the region emerges as a major electric vehicle hub,” Graphite One President and CEO Anthony Huston said in a statement. “Ohio is the perfect home for the second link in our strategy to build a 100% U.S.-based advanced graphite supply chain – from mining to refining to recycling.  The U.S. simply cannot maintain a 21st century tech-driven economy without critical minerals like graphite.”

The lease agreement is for 50 years with an option to purchase, the company said. Construction on the plant is expected to begin within 36 months, subject to financing, the company said. The land is off Warren Avenue, not far from where Kimberly-Clark recently purchased 560 acres of former steel mill property for a potential project.

Graphite One said the site was selected because it is located “in the heart of the automobile industry.” The area also possesses ample low-cost electricity produced from renewable energy sources, plus road and rail access and nearby barging facilities, the company noted.

The site’s existing power supply is sufficient for Phase 1 of the project, which constitutes production of 25,000 tons of battery-ready graphite anode material per year, the company said.  Additional land is available for potential expansion that could ramp up to 100,000 tons of material per year. Future plans call for a recycling facility at the site that would reclaim graphite and other battery materials.

Graphite is a critical component for anodes – or generally the positive side – of a battery. Currently, 100% of natural graphite is imported into the United States, and the company plans to fully build out a domestic supply chain to support industries such as the EV market and other energy ventures.

The first phase would require a capital investment of approximately $435 million and would create 160 jobs, the company said, adding it is “considering various project financing options.” The Ohio facility plans to produce synthetic graphite anode active materials, while the manufacturing of natural graphite materials would be added as soon as feedstock from the company’s mining operations near Nome, Alaska, is available, the company said.

Rick Stockburger, president and CEO of Brite Energy Innovators, Warren, said Brite worked with JobsOhio and the Natural Resources Defense Council to develop a strategy to help Ohio attract companies active in the EV supply chain. In February 2022, the group released a report that justified these prospects through market analysis and the presence of companies such as Ultium Cells LLC’s $2.3 billion EV battery cell manufacturing plant in Lordstown.

He said Brite, JobsOhio and partners such as Herb Crowther, CEO of MegaJoule Ventures, worked to bring Graphite One to the Mahoning Valley.

“This is the culmination of real data-driven economic development and years of work,” Stockburger said. “Graphite One found a great partner in Valley Properties and Herb Crowther to come to the Warren area, the capital of the Voltage Valley.”

Guy Coviello, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, said the Chamber recently met with representatives of Graphite One and representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy to explore grant opportunities to support the project. Coviello said he isn’t sure whether a grant would ensure that the project moves forward, but it “would be a key shot in the arm to get this project finished.”

The chamber has sent letters of support to the DOE regarding the project, emphasizing how an anode facility would fit with the region’s overall growth strategy. “A new battery anode facility here synergistically adds to our cluster of companies like Ultium Cells, Foxconn and Thomas Steel Strip (Tata)” Coviello wrote in a letter to DOE on March 5.

Last year, Graphite One secured a $37.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to accelerate completion of the company’s feasibility study, according to earlier press releases.

U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce, R-14th, applauded the announcement.

“With manufacturing being one of Ohio’s largest economic drivers, I am proud to see this new U.S.-based advanced graphite supply chain in Niles,” he said. “This new project will bring over 160 jobs and spur even more economic growth in the area. I look forward to seeing the success of this project right here.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.

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