ANNE DUNCAN, vice president of USA Processing Operations for Syrah Technologies, introduced her team members, including CEO of Syrah Technologies Shaun Verner (pictured far right) at a Vidalia meeting Tuesday night. Verner was a keynote speaker at the meet-and-greet gathering. (Sentinel photo by Joe Curtis)

The future is bright for Syrah Technologies, according to Shaun Verner, CEO of Syrah Technologies.

This was the message Verner presented to a group of local and state leaders at a Vidalia meeting hosted by Syrah. Verner was completing his first in-person visit to the company’s new plant since COVID-19 and said he was “incredibly excited” on its progress.

Syrah was formed in 2011 as an exploration and mining company with different mineral leases, Verner recalled. In late 2015 while exploring in Mozambique for uranium, company officials found the world’s largest supply of natural graphite deposit.

Seeing an opportunity to take some of the market shares away from volatile China, Syrah officials started forming a plan to enter the natural graphite concentrate market - a key component in batteries.

According to Syrah’s website, natural graphite concentrate is transported from Balama, Mozambigue Graphite Operation to Vidalia. Natural graphite is then shaped into a spherical shape and purified to produce an anode precursor material. Precursor material is then coated and heat treated to produce a finished active anode material.

“Over the last five years, lithium-ion batteries, used primarily for electric vehicles, have gone from 100,000 tons to 400,000 - 500,000 tons a day,” Verner said. “And by 2030, it is going to be three million tons It is incredibly exciting for us.”

Verner said this was a huge opportunity for Syrah and the region.

Currently, the plant in Vidalia can produce 11,000 tons, but Syrah’s vision is bigger and expansion is necessary, Verner said.

“That’s a huge issue and a huge opportunity and we’re incredibly excited,” Verner said. “This gives you the sense on just how big the opportunity is for us.”

An opportunity made larger due to the fact Syrah is the only U.S. company producing the much-needed material.

“Nobody else in the U.S. is producing this material and nobody else behind us has the size of the mine,” Verner said. “We have an opportunity to continue development of this material.”

In 2021, Syrah announced a $137.5 million facility expansion. The expansion will be on land the company owns adjacent to the existing building.

“In the last 12 months, (we’ve been) working with the Department of Energy to try to secure funding for the project,” Verner said. “We are still working through that process. We have everything we need to build the facility. We have received a conditional commitment from the DOE for $175 million.”

Aiding the need for expansion was the company’s obtainment of a major contract with the world’s largest electric vehicle producer, Tesla.

“That is an incredible achievement,” Verner said.

While speaking, Verner gave several reasons why Syrah moved to Vidalia. Some reasons were: access to key utilities, supportive local and state government, capable workforce and facility size with options of expansion.

Confirming Vidalia was the right choice for Syrah, Verner said the local community has been “supportive” along with the Police Jury, Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office, School Board and Vidalia. Their support has “been really important to us.”

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