China graphite market to climb on reducing supply; amorphous price edging up

By Davide Ghilotti, Carrie Shi
Published: Friday, 18 May 2018

Graphite producers in Qingdao suspended production this week to guarantee better air conditions before the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in June, supporting graphite flake prices, while amorphous graphite prices into Europe increased.

Chinese export prices for spherical graphite held firm at current levels this week, with most overseas buyers having booked material in advance for fear of a shortage during the SCO summit period, while amorphous graphite into Europe edged up on low availability.

Industrial Minerals' spherical graphite 99.95% C, 15 microns price was assessed at $2,700-2,800 per tonne fob China on May 17, unchanged from the previous week.

Meanwhile, the price for amorphous graphite, 80-85% C, -200 mesh, from China to Europe, increased slightly to $400-450 per tonne cif Europe, compared with $400-430 per tonne cif on May 10.

Market participants attributed the higher price level to reduced availability for this grade at the moment.

Prices for flake graphite remained unchanged week on week, both in China and on the delivered European market.

Participants remain concerned over material availability going forward.

Previous worries from Chinese producers over an approaching shutdown of local facilities have turned out to be justified after some production was halted by a governmental order this week.

"We stopped graphite production this week as a result of the forthcoming SCO summit. As most graphite producers just started to halt production this week, prices have temporarily kept steady for the moment, but I think graphite prices, especially spherical graphite, will edge up at the end of May or in early June on reducing supply," a graphite producer in Qingdao said.

"The spherical graphite market is supported by the rapid development of the new energy vehicle industry. Our overseas customers have booked more spherical graphite in recent weeks to avoid a lack of material during the SCO summit period. Spherical graphite prices will move up further on supply tension in the coming weeks," a second Qingdao graphite producer said.

Flake graphite prices remained stable. Producers also gradually stopped production of flake grades this week.

According to Industrial Minerals' assessment , fob China prices for flake graphite 94-97% C, -100 mesh price was unchanged at $655-790 per tonne on May 17, and prices for +80 mesh material (same carbon content) flake graphite were assessed at $1,000-1,300 per tonne, also stable from the previous week.

In Europe, the price for flake graphite 94-97% C, +80 mesh, held at $1,000-1,300 per tonne cif Europe; the price for +100 mesh material (same carbon content) stood at $950-1,100 per tonne cif, and -100 mesh product (same carbon content) remained at $790-940 per tonne cif.

"We hold a watchful attitude as production halts started this week, and demand for flake graphite showed no improvement for the moment. We still have stocks for flake graphite, but prices may move up on tight supply if production halt lasts for a long time," a Qingdao producer said.

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