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Honeywell sample lithium plant finished; Buffalo project adds six jobs and brings in new investments and technology

Honeywell International has finished building a sample plant at its Buffalo research and development center, where the company will make test amounts of a vital component of lithium-ion batteries.

The plant, created inside an existing facility at the Peabody Street site, is in the commissioning phase and should start producing samples later this year, said Brian O'Leary, director of energy storage for Honeywell.

For the Buffalo operation, the sample plant project has added six jobs, brought new investment and installed technology that could be used to support future endeavors, Honeywell officials said.

Construction was completed earlier this month, two weeks ahead of schedule. The project increases Honeywell's local employment to about 150 people and is a "source of pride" for the work force, said Jay Kelly, the site leader.

"It's actually a great project for the Buffalo site," Kelly said.

The Buffalo lab is benefiting from part of a $54 million joint investment between Honeywell and the federal government to produce electrolyte salt. Each party contributed about $27 million; Buffalo's share of the $54 million was not disclosed.

The federal grant came from stimulus funds. Honeywell and the U.S. Department of Energy highlighted the investment at an event at the Buffalo site in May 2010.

The sample plant will make electrolyte salt called LiPF6 for batteries used in everything from hybrid and electric vehicles to laptops and cell phones. The samples will be tested to ensure they meet customer requirements and verify when full-scale production can begin. New Jersey-based Honeywell will build a production plant -- probably in Illinois -- that is planned for 2013, but for now the sample stage is the focus, O'Leary said.

Honeywell says it wants to become the first domestic supplier of LiPF6, which will be sold to battery makers. The federal government is promoting development of advanced electric drive vehicles, to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Even after the production plant for LiPF6 is up and running, O'Leary said he expects the Buffalo sample plant will have an ongoing role supporting the product. And down the line, the Buffalo plant's new technology could be used to support other projects, he said.

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com

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