New businesses to follow Syrah?

Published 12:19 am Tuesday, June 12, 2018


NATCHEZ — The opening of a new industrial facility in Vidalia could draw other businesses to the region, company officials said Monday.

Paul Jahn, chief operations officer for Syrah Technologies, said a buyer of the spherical graphite company’s byproduct “is interested” in moving close to Syrah’s industrial facility in Vidalia.

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Jahn spoke at Monday’s Natchez Now meeting of business professionals, where he and Chandler Russ, executive director of Natchez Inc., further explained what exactly Syrah Technologies would produce at their mill and what affect the industry could have on Concordia Parish and Natchez.

Though still very tentative, Jahn said the buyer — who he would not name — would “very likely” want to move close to the Syrah plant to avoid hefty shipping costs.

The industrial facility in Vidalia will ship flake graphite from Caba Delgado, Mozambique, to Vidalia and produce spherical graphite, which is used in electric vehicle batteries.

“We are seeking to be the largest spherical graphite producer in the world, second to China,” Jahn said.

The $25 million operation will also be the only spherical graphite mill in the United States, he said.

“In many respects, the battery industry and the car manufacturing industry will be looking intently across the river,” Jahn said. “That’s good news. You’re going to have a tremendous number of companies coming to see what’s happening, what we can do together. … In our view, we’re on the ground floor of an explosive industry.”

Jahn said his goal for Syrah Technologies’ new mill is to be opened and operational by the end of 2018.

Since Syrah Technologies announced that it would locate its only North American plant in Vidalia, the company has faced backlash and questions about the company’s environmental impact.

The meeting also gave residents the opportunity to voice these concerns.

When asked about the liquid waste material from the plant, Jahn said the water would be diverted to Vidalia’s water treatment system and, eventually, flow to the Mississippi river.

Russ said the company would generate approximately 40,000 gallons of water per day.

“To an individual, that may sound like a lot, but to a business owner, it’s not very much,” Russ said.

Natchez discharges approximately 2.5 million gallons of water every day, Russ said, and Vidalia discharges approximately 1.5 million gallons.

The additional 40,000 gallons of water generated by the industry, he said, will be easily handled without reaching the water treatment facility’s daily discharge limit.

“It’s no more different than you flushing the toilet and sending it to the wastewater treatment facility,” Russ said.

In fact, Russ said the city of Vidalia would need no additional infrastructure for water treatment or electricity generation for the Syrah plant.

“The company is as safe environmentally as it gets,” Russ said. “We fought for the company, we competed for it and we won its business. There are a tremendous amount of rumors out there. They’re absolutely misnomers. They’re not accurate.”