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Plans for first US acetylene-based conductive additives plant

Chemical company Orion Engineered Carbons has announced plans to build the only plant in the USA producing acetylene-based conductive additives — a critical link in the value chain for lithium-ion batteries, high-voltage cables and other products powering the global transition to electrification and renewable energy.

The planned facility in La Porte, Texas, will be backed by a long-term agreement for acetylene supplied from a neighboring site owned by Equistar Chemicals LP, a subsidiary of LyondellBasell.

Acetylene is a colorless gas widely used as a chemical building block. Orion's production process turns acetylene into a powder, which is added to lithium-ion batteries to enhance electrical conductivity and extend lifetime. The material plays a similar role in high-voltage cables used for wind and solar farms.

Orion will invest between $120mn and $14mn in the facility, which is expected to start up in the second half of 2024. The investment is expected to increase the company's conductive additives capacity by approximately 12 kilotons per year.

With this investment, we will quadruple our effective manufacturing capacity of acetylene-based conductive additives, said Corning Painter, Orion's CEO. We are already experiencing high demand for this material, so expanding capacity for it is one of our top investment priorities and a major milestone in our growth plans.

The company, which has a similar plant in France with locally supplied acetylene gas from LyondellBasell, is the sole producer of acetylene-based conductive additives in the European Union.

Demand for battery additives is expected to grow rapidly with the global boom in the construction of gigafactories making lithium-ion batteries.

Batteries will continue to play an increasingly vital role in the world's shift toward clean energy, said Mr Painter. By being a key supplier of materials to the battery industry, we're living up to our mission of delivering solutions for a more sustainable future.