Syrah Resources announces start of AAM production in Vidalia

Published 1:36 pm Friday, February 9, 2024

VIDALIA, La. — Syrah Resources on Friday announced the start of active anode material (AAM) production at its new Vidalia facility.

AAM is a component of batteries for electric vehicles produced from refined natural graphite, which Syrah mines from its Balama graphite operation in Mozambique.

This makes the Australian-based company the first commercial-scale vertically integrated natural graphite AAM supplier outside China, said CEO Shaun Verner.

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The plant production capacity stands at 11.25ktpa (kilo-tonnes per annum), meaning 11.25 thousand metric tons per year.

“Commencing production at Vidalia is a huge step forward in Syrah’s evolution, with the downstream integration being the culmination of almost seven years of technology development, feasibility, procurement, engineering, construction and commissioning work undertaken by the Syrah team and its service providers,” Verner said.

“I congratulate Anne Duncan, our Vice President of U.S. Processing Operations, and the Syrah team on the progress to achieve this important milestone with a strong focus on safety, capital cost controls and schedule, with Vidalia becoming the first integrated AAM facility of its scale built outside China. Syrah expresses its gratitude to the City of Vidalia, the State of Louisiana, the US Department of Energy and the local, state and federal authorities which have supported Syrah in its development of Vidalia.

“Syrah looks forward to positively contributing to the communities around Vidalia and the Company’s stakeholders in the US for many years to come. Our 11.25ktpa AAM Vidalia operation is strategic for both Syrah and the North American battery supply chain and is the foundation of our downstream growth strategy. This strategy is supported by strong (electric vehicle) demand globally, recognition of the importance of independent natural graphite AAM critical mineral supply, and differentiation in terms of emissions intensity of production and provenance of supply. The importance of Vidalia is reinforced by China’s recent introduction of export controls on natural and synthetic graphite and its products, and US guidance on the definition of foreign entity of concern governing qualification for the Section 30D tax credit for new electric vehicles.” 

Furthermore, Syrah is making advances in its procurement, engineering and permitting process to eventually further expand AAM production capacity to 45ktpa on its 38-acre site. Syrah expects to finalize a final investment decision on further Vidalia expansion during the first half of 2024, the company website states.

Under an existing offtake agreement reached in December 2021, Syrah will deliver 8kpta AAM from the Vidalia plant to Tesla. This is subject to production ramp-up and finalization of qualification, to Tesla’s satisfaction, to confirm that the product is aligned with contractual requirements as well as the achievement of threshold production rates.

The Vidalia operations team is fully staffed with 101 employees engaged in the commissioning process and ramping up operations and production at Vidalia. 

In October 2023, Syrah began producing unpurified spherical graphite from the front-end milling area to build an inventory of precursor value-added material before commissioning the purification and furnace areas in January.

The company produced its first purified spherical graphite material last month.

The heating cycle for the first furnace line began in early January 2024 and the carbonization of Syrah Resources’ first pitch-coated purified spherical graphite is complete.

With the start of AAM production achieved, Syrah’s focus at Vidalia transitions to increasing throughput while increasing process consistency, ensuring product quality and maintaining safety; producing and dispatching product samples to Tesla Inc. and other customers, for physical and electrochemical performance testing programs to complete qualification; completing full commissioning of all processing capacity and ancillary infrastructure to support ramp-up; and ramping up production rates to the 11.25kpta AAM design capacity, targeting 80% within six months and full capacity within 18 months from commencement. 

Syrah’s onsite laboratory is responsible for the initial analysis of product quality and confirms the initial specifications of AAM, including particle size distribution, purity, surface area and physical density, prior to dispatch.

Large product samples dispatched to customers for qualification through March 2024 will be used to confirm customer acceptance. Syrah will build inventory for future sales through the operational ramp-up period.