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Graphite is one of world’s most versatile manufacturing materials and essential for the production of new and developing technologies, particularly Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles and power storage, fire retardant building materials and graphene for revolutionary nanotechnologies.

International Graphite is one of the new generation of manufacturers that will produce secondary graphite products to support both emerging industries and existing graphite markets. IG’s Mena plant will be designed for rapid expansion with a diversified product mix that includes:

  • Purified and micronised graphite – for traditional industrial applications, such as dry lubricants, coatings and refractory applications.
  • Expandable graphite – a soft, heat-resistant compound used for fire retardant building materials.
  • High purity graphite foil – expandable graphite compressed to produce a light, flexible thermal material for the electronics industry.
  • Spheroidised graphite – a premium product used in the manufacture of anodes for lithium ion (Li-on) batteries. As these high- tech markets develop, International Graphite will increase its spheroidised graphite output.

LITHIUM BATTERY REVOLUTION

Smartphones, electric cars and 3D printers, along with fuel cells that generate electricity by chemical reaction, are all powered by batteries that use graphite as the anode material. It is a giant market and set to grow quickly. A Li-on battery to power an electric vehicle typically requires 10 times more graphite than lithium bringing high quality spheroidised graphite into tight supply.

Tesla broke new ground when it opened the first stage of its “Gigafactory No 1” in 2016, with plans to produce enough Lithium batteries to supply 1,500,000 electric cars per year. More plants are planned in the US, Europe and China. In 2017, Tesla switched on the world’s biggest lithium battery to feed electricity into the Australian domestic grid. China is a major producer of EVs.

As the world searches for renewable energy sources, the real future of graphite may lie in fuel cells which converting chemical energy into electricity using external fuel supplies.


*Source Bloomberg

GROWTH PROJECTIONS

The outlook for graphite is buoyant with market analysts predicting:

  • The global graphite market will grow to US$21.4bn by 2024 at a CAGR of 5.6%.
  • Demand for flake graphite will increase from less than 600,000 tpa in 2014 to more than 1.6 Mtpa in 2025, mainly on the back of battery growth.
  • Flake graphite demand from lithium-ion battery manufacturers is increasing at 20% a year.
  • Goldman Sachs forecasts that electric vehicles will account for 25% of car sales by 2025.
  • More than 5 billion people currently have a mobile phone – all powered by lightweight batteries made using graphite.
  • According to the United States Geological Survey, fuel cells could create more demand for flake graphite than other applications combined.
  • Investments in new lithium-ion battery capacity are expected to exceed US$12bn by 2020 according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, with at least 12 lithium ion mega factories planned worldwide.
  • Demand for graphite for lithium-ion batteries is set to increase by over 200 percent in the next four years, driven by edemand for electric vehicles and energy storage, while distributed energy storage revenue is forecast to exceed $16.5 billion by 2023, says Navigant Research.

TRADITIONAL MARKETS

Traditional graphite markets are also robust. Graphite has long been in demand for everything from pencils and refractory materials, used in furnaces, kilns, incinerators, and reactors, to flame deflector systems for rocket launch structures. Graphite is also found in automotive components, inks and coatings, paints, polymers and plastics, lubricants and grease, ceramics, drilling fluids, steel pipe and tubing, fire retardants and oil spill recovery materials. In 2017, the refractory segment accounted for more than 43% of the market.

FUTURE MARKETS

The ultimate boost for graphite may come from graphene. Dubbed the strongest material in the world, this thin, flexible commodity is 10 times lighter and 200 times stronger than steel. Due to its atomic structure, graphene can be moulded into any shape and conducts electricity at the speed of light. IBM is currently using it to produce the fastest computer chip in history and ultimately, graphene chips may replace silicon chips in computers.