Lithium-ion battery market will drive graphite demand, Imerys says

By Carrie Shi
Published: Monday, 22 October 2018

The demand for battery-grade graphite between now and 2002 will be driven by the expansion of the downstream battery industry, according to Imerys business director Fabrizio Corti.

Demand for graphite to be used in the battery sector is expected to grow between now and 2020, driven by a positive outlook and rapid development of the downstream battery industry, according to Fabrizio Corti, business director for synthetic graphite at Imerys Graphite & Carbon.

Corti told delegates at the 7th Graphite & Graphene conference in London that lithium-ion battery manufacturers expected to increase their production capacities significantly, with the output of the 17 battery-making "gigafactories" in the world expected to rise to 234GWh by 2020, from 29GWh in 2016.

Most of these capacity expansions are being seen in Asia and, although North America and Europe are lagging behind, these regions still have the potential for significant investment in the near future.

"Graphite prices historically have been driven by steel and industrial applications, but now and in future they will be driven by battery demand," Corti added.

China still dominates the supply scenario for graphite grades suitable for anode application, he said. All natural spherical-graphite supplies and 75% of synthetic graphite supplies used in battery anodes come from China.

Globally, there is around 1.5 million tonnes per year of graphite production, according to Imerys data. Some 90,000-100,000 tpy of this is used to produce battery-grade material, at a yield rate of about 30%.

Given the rapid development in the battery industry, manufacturers face many challenges, such as how to acquire sufficient and reliable supplies of graphite materials that have properties consistent with stable battery performance, Corti said.

Because China’s graphite mines and processing operations are sometimes suspended by the central government’s use of environmental restrictions, sourcing graphite from outside of China is one way for battery-makers to guarantee supply.