Crain’s Detroit Business
March 22, 2022
Graphex Technologies LLC is planning a graphite processing plant in Warren expected to create 125 jobs and give automakers a local supply of a mineral vital for lithium-ion car batteries.
The company is entering a joint venture with Royal Oak-based Emerald Energy Solutions LLC to invest $50 million to $60 million in the facility, said John DeMaio, president of Graphex’s graphene division.
The 150,000-square-foot plant, expected to be operational by the second quarter of 2023, would have the capacity to produce annually 15,000 metric tons of coated spherical graphite — the main anode material for most electric vehicle batteries and renewable energy storage.
It would be among the first large-scale graphite processing plants in the country and the first domestic plant for Graphex, which has roots in Hong Kong.
“It produces a couple of effects. It’s bringing technology and jobs back to the U.S.,” DeMaio said. “It’s providing local supply chain to the EV (industry) and EV battery production. Because Graphex has control of that entire midstream, it affords a level of stability and predictability in supply chain.”
Stability is the key word for automakers rethinking their supply base after the upheaval of the past couple of years, including the microchip shortage, Ambassador Bridge blockade, and geopolitical conflict. At the same time, the transition to EVs has offered a variety of companies such as Graphex a new entry point into the automotive market.
Jobs at the graphite plant would be a mix of unskilled production labor, skilled mechanical work, and management positions with a pay range of $15-$60 per hour.
The company is seeking local and state incentives for the facility, which will have production, storage, testing, and administrative offices.
The plant will be in the Emerald Business Park, a recently renovated, multi-building industrial complex on Hoover Road just north of Eight Mile Road that also houses cannabis grow operations.
Emerald Energy Solutions, an affiliate of the business park operator, will fund the construction and operation of the plant, while also managing governmental and regulatory concerns.
Graphex said it will arrange for the supply of graphite from China, where it has a base, and provide the patented technological expertise for processing it.
DeMaio declined to detail the ownership structure of the joint venture or disclose terms of the agreement.
Graphex is a subsidiary of publicly traded Graphex Group ADR, which is domiciled in the Cayman Islands with an administrative headquarters in Hong Kong. It reported revenue of $49.9 million in 2020, the most recent year available.
Although the company does not have any supply contracts in place with Detroit area automakers and battery makers, DeMaio said those discussions are ongoing and he is confident they will be fruitful. The Warren plant is a speculative though confident play for future EV business, DeMaio said.
“The Big 3 and others, to hit their projections of numbers of electric vehicles produced, they know that they have to beef up the supply chain, and they’re looking to lock down stable supply as local as they can,” he said.