Entek eyes Indiana, Alabama for new EV battery separator plants

March 16, 2023
Federal funding will help the company shorten the supply chain for the essential component.

Update: Entek chooses Terre Haute for battery film plant

By Bruce Geiselman

Entek, received a $200 million federal grant to help fund construction of a U.S. lithium battery separator plant, plans to open the first of two new facilities by mid-2025. Eventually, the plants will supply enough separator film for millions of batteries for electric vehicles (EVs).

During a press briefing in February, CEO Larry Keith discussed Entek’s plan.

“We will end up with two plants,” Keith said. “We’ve narrowed it down to Indiana and Alabama. One of the challenges is finding a large enough property that has enough power available to run a facility this big. We have a site in Terre Haute — and we have a couple of sites in Indiana that we are looking at. We’ll probably end up in Terre Haute with our first plant, and then Alabama with our second plant.”

Entek, which currently produces lithium battery separator film in Lebanon, Ore., plans to ramp up production to meet anticipated growth in demand as automobile manufacturers in the United States shift production to battery EVs. The company wants to protect the supply chain by spreading out the film manufacturing sites in case of a natural disaster or other event that could interrupt production, Keith said.

“We are the only wet process lithium-ion battery separator manufacturer in the U.S. today,” Keith said.

Battery separator film is a porous polymeric membrane needed to avoid the direct contact between the anode and the cathode of battery cells.

The “wet-process” involves the use of a solvent to remove oil from the battery separator material to make it porous, so ions can flow inside the battery. Entek has secured a contract with Brueckner Group USA to provide biaxial stretching equipment and related technology.

Entek also has developed a unique process that eliminates the use of methylene chloride, which is considered a toxic substance by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Keith said. The company instead uses what it calls a green solvent.

Keith explained that its wet manufacturing method is preferred by automakers over dry technology.

Today, Entek supplies almost three quarters of the separator film used for batteries by U.S. automotive OEMs. It's also a top supplier in Europe and Asia.

Entek's first new plant will eventually have eight to 10 production lines. The first pair of lines will be in production in 2025, with additional lines being phased in through the end of 2027, Keith said.

The federal cost amounts to $200 million with Entek’s cost totaling more than $1.24 billion, according to a fact sheet provided by Entek.

“It’s about a $1.5 billion investment for us,” Keith said. “It’s a huge investment for the size of our company.”

The plant will be able to make more than 15 billion square feet of separator film per year, which is enough material for batteries in about 1.4 million EVs. The plant will employ about 650 workers.

By the time the first plant is in full production, Entek expects to start construction on the second plant, Keith said. That could cost the company another $1.5 billion and between the two plants would result in total production of about 32 billion square feet of battery separator film annually.

“There is just a massive amount of plastics and separator that is going to be required to support this [lithium battery] industry,” Keith said. “And it’s not just electric vehicles. It’s also energy-storage systems for windmills and solar panels because you have to store it [electric power] for when the sun doesn’t shine at nighttime. You’ve got to store that to put it back on the grid to charge all these cars that are plugged in at nighttime. The entire U.S. grid really needs an overhaul and the ability to store energy.”

If Entek’s plans for new plants move forward as envisioned, the company expects to convert its current lithium battery separator plant in Lebanon so it can manufacture a different product, Keith said.

Entek also manufactures twin-screw extruders, materials-handling systems and other processing equipment.

Bruce Geiselman, senior staff reporter

[email protected] 


Entek, Lebanon, Ore., 541-259-3901, http://entek.com 

About the Author

Bruce Geiselman | Senior Staff Reporter

Senior Staff Reporter Bruce Geiselman covers extrusion, blow molding, additive manufacturing, automation and end markets including automotive and packaging. He also writes features, including In Other Words and Problem Solved, for Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing, Plastics Recycling and The Journal of Blow Molding. He has extensive experience in daily and magazine journalism.