Meeting photo

ENTEK Lithium Separators LLC to build a $1.5 billion facility after Vigo County Redevelopment accepts bid for project in the Vigo County Industrial Park II.

ENTEK, a battery component manufacturer, will build a $1.5 billion plant in the Vigo County Industrial Park II.

The Vigo County Redevelopment Commission on Tuesday accepted the company’s bid for the project, which will be built on land that formerly housed Pfizer.

The Terre Haute facility will be the largest investment in a plant to date by ENTEK.

The company says it will bring 642 jobs by the end of 2027 and support the growing electric vehicle industry.

The Oregon-based company, established in 1984, is the only U.S.-based producer of “wet-process” lithium-ion battery separators.

ENTEK CEO Larry Keith said the battery separator “goes between the positive and negative plate inside of a car battery or just about any kind of battery. It is the insulator and is microporous, so it allows the ions to flow through the separators and prevents the battery from shorting.”

ENTEK, he said, has “a new technology we developed about three years ago. It is more of a green and clean solvent,” to make the separators thin for the electric vehicle market.

“In [an internal combustion engine] car battery, there is about 35 feet of this, but in a lithium electric car there is much, much more in a battery. This plant will build about 1.4 billion square meters of separators in phase one,” Keith said.

“Right now there is a demand announced in the United States for about 7 billion square meters of needed separators based on the amount of batteries to be built.”

The plant will provide enough separator material to power 1.4 to 1.6 million electric vehicles annually by 2027, the CEO said.

The Vigo County project is the first phase of ENTEK’s planned expansion to produce about 1.4 billion square meters of ceramic coated lithium separators across its operations.

Phase 2 of the project will add up to an additional 1.8 billion square meters of battery separator produced annually for a total of 3.2 billion square meters, enough separators for about 3.5 million electric vehicles.

In the U.S., ENTEK currently manufactures about 85% of separators used in batteries for gasoline and diesel powered automobiles, trucks and other vehicles such as golf carts.

Keith said the company was awarded a $200 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the recent Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and has applied for a $900 million loan through the DOE, with the company fronting the remaining capital for the startup of the project. The federal funding is part of a measure to increase domestic production of lithium batteries.

“It is exciting for us. We made an announcement [of an expansion of separator capacity] well before we knew there was a [federal] grant program and already had this in the works well before the Infrastructure Law was put into place,” he said. “So, we feel like we were in the right place at the right time and made the right decisions,” Keith said.

The Vigo County project includes four buildings, each about 350,000 to 400,000-square feet, which are being designed.

“We plan to build about 1.4 million square feet in phase one, with eight production lines and 16 coating lines,” Keith told the Redevelopment Commission.

“We hope to have our first production line running in 2025 and have all our lines running by the end of 2027,” Keith said after the county meeting.

“We will build most of the equipment for this plant,” Keith said, with specialty biaxial stretching equipment supplied by Brueckner Group USA.

The 642 new jobs in Vigo County will include a wide variety of needed workers.

“There will be maintenance people, engineering, operations running the production lines, human resources, just the whole gamut of what it takes to run a big plant,” Keith said.

Keith said the company looked at other sites in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee but chose Indiana based on power availability, rail, and workforce, among other requirements.

Steve Witt, president of the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp., said the company will next seek a 100% tax abatement for 10 years from the Vigo County Council.

That is the same tax abatement awarded to Steel Dynamics Heartland LLC for a $231 million expansion that is to add 84 new jobs.

Honey Creek Fire Protection District officials this month voiced concern to the Vigo County Council of such an abatement, saying it removes income to the district for fire protection of the new industries.

Witt said he will present a plan to the Vigo County Council that will provide an annual payment for fire protection.

Witt said Vigo County was able to attract the company, “one, based on electric power availability.

“They will be a huge consumer of electric power, at full build out, of about 133 megawatts and will be a large consumer of natural gas,” Witt said. “They will be a rail user and we have rail already there. We have other utilities in place ready to go. And we also have geography.

“We learned a long time ago to accommodate industry, you have to work at the speed of industry and be ready and be prepared for when they come in. They are not going to wait around for two years while we build things,” Witt said.

“We are thrilled for the community and what this project will bring down the road,” he added.

As part of an incentive, the Vigo Redevelopment Commission, based on the investment size and number of new jobs, is providing 388.64 acres in the industrial park at $1 per acre to ENTEK.

The land was appraised at $5,333,500. The property is bounded by Carlisle Road to the east and Harlan Road to the south. The property is south of Saturn Petcare’s manufacturing facility.

The company’s proposal includes a claw-back provision, which would rescind incentives such as a tax abatement, if ENTEK has not met a $1.5 billion investment within 48 months of closing on the county property, said Jeff Lind, attorney for the redevelopment commission.

“It is a game changer for our community,” said commission President Pat Ralston.

Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or Follow on Twitter @TribStarHoward.

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