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Technology Oil-refining giant Koch Industries invests nearly $1B in battery companies


Technology

Technology Oil-refining giant Koch Industries invests nearly $1B in battery companies

Not on my bingo card — Batteries are closer to Koch’s other businesses than you might think. Tim De Chant – Mar 23, 2022 4:28 pm UTC Enlarge / Koch Industries Inc. headquarters in Wichita, Kansas.Larry W. Smith/BloombergKoch Industries—the conglomerate owned by Charles Koch and the heirs of David Koch, men who donated heavily to…

Technology Oil-refining giant Koch Industries invests nearly $1B in battery companies

Technology

Not on my bingo card —

Batteries are closer to Koch’s other businesses than you might think.


Technology Koch Industries Inc. headquarters in Wichita, Kansas.

Enlarge / Koch Industries Inc. headquarters in Wichita, Kansas.

Larry W. Smith/Bloomberg

Koch Industries—the conglomerate owned by Charles Koch and the heirs of David Koch, men who donated heavily to groups that helped politicize the science of climate change—is reportedly investing hundreds of millions of dollars in battery companies.

The privately held company has its fingers in a range of industries, from oil refining to chemical production, lumber and paper mills, glass, and electronics firm Molex, which created a popular computer interconnection. But according to a Wall Street Journal report, Koch Industries has become one of the largest investors in the battery world outside of automakers and their suppliers.

The firm has sunk at least $750 million into battery makers and battery material companies over at least 10 investments, the Journal reports. The sector has experienced rapid growth over the last decade, and battery technology continues to improve at a remarkably steady pace.

Koch Industries isn’t commenting on the investments. While they may appear to be an about-face for a company largely built on drilling and refining carbon, the stakes are also well-timed hedges that don’t stray far from its expertise. The firm has typically focused on extractive industries and the products that result from them. After its initial success in oil refining and chemical production, Koch Industries branched out into oil and gas pipelines, fertilizer production, lumber and paper mills, and glassmaking.

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In that light, Koch’s investments in battery companies don’t seem so strange. Its largest investment, $225 million, is in Aspen Aerogels, which makes materials for battery anodes and thermal barriers to prevent battery fires. Some of its other products can be used to insulate buildings and industrial facilities where high or low temperatures are important, such as petrochemical refineries.

Koch Industries’ investment arm also put $100 million into each of three companies that are more tightly focused on batteries. Standard Lithium is a Canadian company that is developing lithium mines in the US. Another, Eos Energy, is based in Massachusetts and is concentrating on more affordable grid-scale batteries using zinc. And Canadian company Li-Cycle Holdings is focusing on lithium-ion battery recycling using mechanical and hydrometallurgical processes, which are less energy-intensive than the usual pyrometallurgical processes that melt cells to recover different materials.

Two other investments are in companies further down the supply chain. Norway-based Freyr Battery, which Koch has a 10 percent stake in, is working to mass-produce higher-density, lower-carbon battery cells for EVs and grid storage, and Colorado-based Solid Power is working to develop solid-state batteries and battery materials. Koch participated in a $165 million funding round for Solid Power a month after Ford and BMW participated in another early-stage round.

The extent of Koch Industries’ involvement in batteries may represent yet another turning point in the clean tech world. “The speed of the energy transition is directly correlated with companies like Koch participating in it,” Tom Jensen, CEO of Freyr Battery, told the Journal.

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