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SK Innovation reiterates Georgia plant benefits US economy

How SK Innovation's Georgia plant will look upon construction completion (SK Innovation)
How SK Innovation's Georgia plant will look upon construction completion (SK Innovation)
SK Innovation’s aggressive battery investments have trickle-down effects for local businesses in Korea and the US, the Korean firm claimed Friday, as it sought to burnish its contributions to the economy ahead of a lawsuit ruling in the US.

The energy firm is currently building two electric battery plants in the US state of Georgia. The first of those, with capacity of 9.8 GWh of production a year, is expected to be finished and start test runs next year. It is due to enter full-fledged operation in early 2022.

The second plant, with 11.7GWh capacity, is hoped to begin operations in early 2023.

When both are completed, SK Innovation will have an annual production capacity of 21.5GWh of electric batteries -- enough for approximately 430,000 electric vehicles.

SK Innovation’s partner firms are following suit in venturing out to the US, creating a basis for mutual growth, SK Innovation said.

Enchem, a Korean electrolyte company, is building a 20,000-ton capacity plant in Georgia, which will begin making electrolytes in the US starting early next year.

Electrolytes are one of the four core ingredients for battery-making, together with cathodes, anodes and separators. Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, for example, store and release electricity by having the lithium-ions move across the separator between the cathode and anode, carried by the electrolyte.

Ecoprobm, a high-nickel cathode manufacturer and a close partner of SK Innovation, established an American entity in Georgia in November, and is pushing to localize its services there.

Dongwon Technology, a manufacturer of heating, ventilation and air conditioning duct, has invested $700,000 in Georgia in December to open a high-end HVAC duct manufacturing facility and a sales office.

Toptec, a battery equipment company, supplied parts to SK Battery America, and Japanese carbon nano tube firm Toyo Color has also built a plant in Georgia in September to supply SK Innovation with CNT.

Jin Tech, an automobile parts supplier for Kia Motors, Hyundai Motor and General Motors, has announced it will invest $4.5 million to build a plant in Georgia.

The above companies’ investments in Georgia are all linked to SK Innovation’s presence there, SK Innovation said, stressing its role in invigorating the US local economy.

SK Innovation is involved in a trade secret suit with LG Chem in the US. The US International Trade Commission has taken the side of LG Chem in its preliminary ruling made February, citing SK Innovation’s destruction of evidence and contempt of court.

The final determination on the matter has been delayed three times since then, however, with SK Innovation stressing its contribution to the US local economy through the Georgia plant.

If SK Innovation loses the suit, its Georgia plant could suffer serious setbacks or even closure, which would incur great losses for the company, not only because it has invested $2.5 billion to build those plants but also because it will face challenges to meet orders from Volkswagen and Daimler.

SK Innovation has received over 50 trillion won ($45.5 billion) in orders in the recent two years. In order to meet those demands, the company is building plants in the US, China and Hungary in Europe.

LG Chem filed an USITC suit against SK Innovation in April 2019, alleging it stole critical trade secrets by poaching research personnel. SK Innovation, previously a separator supplier to LG Chem, experienced explosive growth in electric battery research and development in recent years. At the time when the USITC suit was raised, 76 researchers had moved from LG Chem to SK Innovation.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (kaylalim@heraldcorp.com)
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