Jharkhand, India-based Tirupati Carbons and
Chemicals is set to open a new 12,000 tpa flake graphite mine
and plant in Madagascar before the end of 2015, the company
revealed at the 4th IM Graphite and Graphene
Conference in Berlin, Germany, in December.
Shishir Poddar, Tirupati’s CEO, said
that the company, which already has two operating graphite
mines and a 10,000 tpa project pending approval in India, was
expanding to develop international deposits with higher
concentrations of large flake graphite.
"India will be a force to be reckoned with in the
future of the flake graphite industry," Poddar told
The new Madagascan project is located around 60km
inland from the east coast port of Toamasina and consists
predominantly of large flake graphite.
Poddar said that India currently consumes around
60,000 tpa graphite but that domestic production stood at just
24,000 tpa in 2014, with the balance imported mostly from
Tirupati initially aims to supply the domestic
Indian graphite market, where consumption is led by
refractories, industrial applications and anode manufacturing,
but Poddar said that the company has plans to eventually become
a global exporting company.
"We need to add capacity in a limited way," he
said, pointing out that a rapid production ramp up would put
unsustainable pressure on the currently delicate supply-demand
Poddar said that owing to the higher large flake
concentrations, Tirupati will be able to command an average
price of $1,234/tonne for its Madagascar production, around 40%
higher than the average selling price of its Indian graphite,
which stands at around $879/tonne.
Poddar also revealed that the company intends to
acquire further international graphite projects within the next
few years and that Tirupati is also planning to become a public
company over the same time frame as it grows its operations and
Pebble bed nuclear could offer growth
potential for natural graphite
A shift in the nuclear power industry towards the
use of new 'Generation Four’ (Gen IV) reactors
could provide a growth market for natural graphite suppliers
capable of producing very high purity material, delegates at
the Berlin conference heard.
Jon Hykawy, president of Canadian analytical
services firm, Stormcrow Capital, told the conference that
nuclear energy represents "one of the best new energy options"
available, as the world tries to move away from its dependence
on fossil fuels.
"But for this to take hold, we need safe
nuclear," he said.
Hykawy explained how the pebble bed modular
reactor (PBMR) design, which uses fuel 'pebbles’
composed of a highly pure, nuclear grade graphite matrix
hosting ceramic-coated fuel pellets as well as a graphite-lined
reactor core, has been pursued for decades as a safer and more
efficient alternative to conventional models.
PBMRs are considered Gen IV because they are
designed to be inherently, passively safe, relying on gas
rather than water as a cooling agent and that the high
temperature resistance of the graphite in the pebbles allows
the reactor to "calm itself down", even if the supply of
coolant is shut off.
Hykawy pointed to calculations by the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which suggest that
an 110 MWe PBMR, based on MIT’s own design,
requires 80 tonnes of graphite in the form of uranium-flecked
pebbles; 28 tonnes of graphite as pure pebbles for the core
neutron reflector; and 426 tonnes of solid graphite in the
reactor’s outer reflector shield.
PBMRs also need to be 'fed’ new
graphite pebbles on a daily basis, requiring around 31 tpa of
top up material.
Using these estimated volumes, Hykawy said that
China’s plans to build 70 GWe of PBMR nuclear
power in China by 2030 could require 340,000 tonnes of graphite
in the initial build, plus an additional 20,000 tpa for
He noted that the migration to PBMR was already
underway in China, but that it might take the rest of the world
time to catch up.
Nuclear grade graphite sells for well in excess
of $10,000/tonne, but this has hitherto been the preserve of
synthetic graphite because of the need for consistency and
purity in reactor material, which requires an equivalent boron
content (ECB) of less than 5 ppm.
According to Hykawy, in reality, an ECB of less
than 2ppm is desirable for nuclear graphite.
"So the overall winner for PBMR is probably going
to be synthetic graphite," he said, but added that two Canadian
natural graphite companies - Zenyatta Ventures, which owns the
Albany graphite deposit in Ontario and Canada Carbon, which
owns the Miller property in Quebec - have demonstrated the
ability to produce the required purity, using a caustic bake
process on the hydrothermal lump/vein-type ores yielded by the
Hykawy concluded by saying that the nuclear
graphite industry is small and controlled by just a handful of
players, but that if natural graphite producers can secure a
foothold in this market, prices of $10,000/tonne make nuclear
material a lucrative business option, even for relatively small