In a massive plastics investment, Semcorp Advanced Materials Group will spend $916 million to build a separator film plant employing almost 1,200 in Sidney, Ohio.
The 850,000-square-foot facility represents the largest foreign direct investment in Ohio, officials with Shanghai-based Semcorp said in a May 5 news release. The plant will make separator film, a key component in batteries for electric vehicles. Plastic film made at the plant will be used by leading EV battery makers across North America.
"The Sidney facility is one of the biggest investments in our company's history, because we know the United States is strongly committed to building the supply chains for EVs and energy storage here at home," CEO, Chairman and co-founder Paul Lee said in the release.
He added that the site "will be America's largest manufacturer of separator film for EV batteries. … We look forward to working hand-in-hand with state and local leaders to make the large-scale domestic production of this component a reality."
According to James Shih, global projects vice president, Semcorp chose the Sidney location "because of [Ohio's] impressive commitment to vocational education, preparedness for a large-scale project like ours, the strong work ethic in the region, and proximity to key customers."
In addition to EVs, lithium-ion batteries power a wide range of consumer products such as cell phones and computers. Semcorp officials said the firm is the largest lithium-ion battery separator film maker in the world, with five billion square meters in annual base film production capacity across six manufacturing plants.
The company plans to add an additional eight billion square meters in capacity within the next four years, including the Sidney site, primarily to serve the booming EV market. Globally, Semcorp employs almost 6,000 and posted sales of almost $1.3 billion in 2021.
On May 4, President Joe Biden's administration announced it would invest more than $3 billion to develop, build and source materials for lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and storage. The Department of Energy funding did not specify if any funds will be allocated for separator films, but acknowledged the need to create batteries in the U.S.
"Semcorp's advanced battery separator film will help propel Ohio to the forefront of the electric vehicle industry," JobsOhio President and CEO J.P. Nauseef said. He added that JobsOhio, an economic development group, worked with the Dayton Development Coalition, the Sidney-Shelby Economic Partnership, the City of Sidney and Shelby County to secure the Semcorp project.
Dayton Development Coalition President and CEO Jeff Hoagland added that the fast-growing market for EVs and aircraft "represents an incredible opportunity for the Dayton region to remain competitive in the changing manufacturing economy and provide opportunities for our skilled manufacturing workforce."
Semcorp also announced the hiring of Jeff Liu as president and CEO of its Advanced Materials International division.
"I'm excited to use my experience to bring their technology to the Dayton region," Liu said. "Projects like ours will underwrite the prosperity of this community for the next generation."
Semcorp is publicly traded as Yunnan Energy New Material Co. Ltd. on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The firm specializes in wet-process separator film and offers the broadest selection of battery separator film products in the market, officials said, with more than 100 products.
Brothers Paul Lee and Tony Li co-founded Semcorp after immigrating to the U.S. in the 1980s to study at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. They began their careers on the factory floor of a plastics facility in Port Lavaca, Texas. Building on their experience in the plastics packaging and printing industries, they decided to enter the lithium-ion battery separator film business in 2010.
Semcorp has developed advanced functional coating technologies such as ceramic coating, PVDF coating and high-temperature polymer coatings that improve battery safety. The functional coated films enable engineers to design safer batteries with long range and cycling performance, officials said. In addition to separator film, Semcorp also makes packaging and printing products.