Koura: Positioning Louisiana as a global leader in the fluoroproducts industry

ORBIA FLUOR & Energy Materials’ (Koura’s) story is one of American grit and tenacity. It wasn’t too long ago that the St. Gabriel plant faced the very real possibility that it would be downsized or shuttered. Instead, it is expanding to become the nation’s first domestic manufacturer of critical lithium-ion battery materials.

Louisiana native Erick Comeaux, Director – Operations, Growth, is proud of his company’s ability to pivot while also finding a way to keep the entirety of its workforce employed. An LSU graduate, Comeaux has spent 30 years working in the petrochemical industry. “The refrigerant we produce is being phased out,” he says. “Some companies would have just closed the facility and laid everyone off, but that would have had a tremendous impact on our workers, and the whole state of Louisiana for that matter.”




Koura Chemical Manufacturing





Instead, Orbia Fluor & Energy Materials took the bold step of entering a business they have supported for decades—the lithium-ion battery market—and chose to build two new grassroots production facilities to manufacture the chemicals that go into the batteries, with the help of funding from the U.S. Department of Energy through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Once operational, one of the plants will produce enough lithium hexafluorophosphate to make more than a million electric vehicle (EV) batteries a year.

They’ll then retrofit their existing operations to produce a new, lower global warming potential refrigerant. “Doing that will not only preserve the $87 million in value we bring to the state, but our projections show that our new businesses will be worth more than $2.7 billion to Louisiana and $300 million to Iberville Parish over the next 30 years. We’re going to come out bigger and better than we have ever been from this challenge.”

What’s more, the company’s existing contingent of 85 permanent workers will continue to work at the plant. “The plan is to retain all our existing workforce,” Comeaux says. “We have a place for everyone and more—the two new plants together will require about 160 new employees and about 40 additional contractors.

Proactively cultivating a workforce

Orbia Fluor & Energy Materials has already begun proactively cultivating the workforce it will need. They recently launched the Orbia Empower Scholarship program offering 10 college scholarships—eight for com[1]munity colleges and two for four-year colleges—through the Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s online portal, with another two for an apprenticeship program through NCCER. “We help them to fill out the application, collect the requirements, and find out what they need to be successful,” Comeaux says. “We’ll even help with tutoring or transportation.”

Orbia also offers paid internships, whereby students can be exposed to on-the-job training. “Every candidate will have a job offer if they finish school and the program,” he adds.

“Our purpose is to help people who may not have had the opportunity to work in this industry. We want to give them a chance to qualify for these jobs when they are available.”

The Louisiana site also provides an unmatched working environment, with a reputation for running safe and environmentally responsible operations over three decades. In recognition of that accomplishment, they are repeat winners of the Louisiana SAFE (Serious About Fostering Excellence) Award, presented by the Louisiana Chemical Association, and CN’s Safe Handling Award (for rail).

“We want our employees to have good stories about where they work,” Comeaux says. “We view our people as an investment and want to give them every opportunity to succeed. It’s one of the many ways that we are Advancing Life Around the World.”

From the Director Of Operations

Erik Comeaux 

“Exciting things are happening at Orbia Fluor & Energy Materials (Koura). We are in the process of designing and building two new state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities adjacent to our existing site in St. Gabriel that will produce materials for lithium-ion batteries. As the U.S. Secretary of Energy, former Governor Edwards and our other elected leaders noted when they visited our site last year, these facilities will create a robust, domestic lithium-ion battery supply chain for the first time in our nation’s history. Touted by the U.S. Energy Secretary as a “model for the nation,” these projects put Louisiana at the “tip of the spear” in leading the global energy transition.

We are proud of our highly trained, skilled and diverse local workforce and the safety record we have maintained since we began site operations in 1991. We strive to nurture a culture among our workforce and with our customers and communities that reflects our commitment to Advancing Life Around the World.

With an estimated $2.7 billion economic contribution to Louisiana over the next 30 years, our people will continue to have a vital positive impact on the future of our region and state. Orbia Fluor & Energy Materials is committed to remaining a valued community partner through our payroll, purchases, taxes and support for our schools and nonprofit organizations, including the new Orbia Empower Scholarship Program launched earlier this year.”