Entek is still selecting locations for the sites of the two 300,000- to 400,000-square-foot facilities. The facilities will be located regionally to support battery producers, Fraser-Bell said, but they won't necessarily need to be based on an automotive OEM or Tier 1 supplier's campus.
"When you make the lithium-ion battery, you need to be close to the EV battery manufacturers because you're talking about 500 kilograms of battery; it takes up a lot of space and logistics and freight costs are quite significant," he said. "The separator, unlike the battery, [location is] not so important."
The market's "significant demand for labor" will have a part to play in choosing site locations, Fraser-Bell said.
"We need to position ourselves according to where the highest degree of renewable energy is available, the lowest cost energy is available, but also where that skilled labor is available and can be trained up," he said.
The two battery separator operations will be powered primarily "by available renewable energy with a focus on a reduced carbon footprint," a news release said, unlike methylene chloride extraction systems used by other lithium battery separator producers.
Entek expects its "first major expansion of lithium-ion separator production" to be completed by 2025, "with continued expansion through 2027, totaling 1.4 billion square meters of annual production," the said.
That amount of material, enough to power about 1.4 million EVs, "probably represents about 25-27 percent of the EV market at that time in the U.S.," Fraser-Bell said.
Entek's investment in the market also includes a contract with Brückner Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG to provide the biaxial stretching equipment and technology needed to produce the lithium-ion separators.
The stretching machines have "one of the longest lead times," he said, and they will be delivered between 2025 and 2027.
"They're an important step because they supply a component of the line that's important to us, but not necessarily the major portion of the line," Fraser-Bell said. "Even though we will be buying equipment … the rest of the dollars spent on equipment will be in the States [instead of] imported."
Entek Manufacturing Inc. in Oregon and Nevada will produce much of the rest of the equipment for the new factories, he said, including mixers, twin-screw extruders, extractors and dryers.
The company hopes to start production of the separators at the end of the first half of 2025, he added.
"Our growth and success are testament to Entek's ability to scale and continually produce high-quality, high-performance separators demanded by key OEMs," Larry Keith, Entek's CEO, said in a news release. "Combined with our robust and proprietary IP and our vertically integrated engineering and fabrication competencies, Entek has both the commitment and capability to supply the growing and critical U.S. lithium-ion battery industry with U.S.-produced separators."
In the first half of 2023, Entek will also install 164 million square feet of additional ceramic coating capacity at its new facility in Henderson, Nev., "to support current base film production," the release said.