Leading Edge Materials plans commercial production of expandable graphite in 2021

By Jon Stibbs
Published: Wednesday, 31 July 2019

The Canada-headquartered company has developed feedstock for expandable graphite from its Woxna mine in Sweden.

Leading Edge Materials expects to go into commercial production of expandable graphite in two years following the successful development of feedstock from the Woxna graphite mine in Sweden.

Graphite flake from the Woxna mine in Sweden will be used in value-added graphite products, such as expandable graphite, from 2021, according to the interim chief executive officer of Leading Edge Materials, which owns the mine.  

"We should be in commercial production of expandable graphite - dependent on research and finance - in early 2021," Mark Saxon told Fastmarkets on Wednesday July 31. "We are planning to enter the batteries market in the second half of 2021."

Leading Edge Material, headquartered in Canada, has successful completed the first phase of test work to manufacture expandable graphite, the company said on Tuesday.

Feedstock for the test was sourced from stocks of flake from the Woxna mine in Sweden, which stopped production in 2015.

The consultancy company ProGraphite performed the research in Germany using run-of-mine +80 mesh (>180 micron) material.

However, Leading Edge Materials will have facilities to produce expandable graphite on the site of the Woxna mine.

Output was halted at the mine in 2015 because of the low margins available for graphite flake at the time.

The company said it could achieve prices for expandable graphite of $2,000-4,000 per tonne, according to flake size, expansion ratio and purity.

Meanwhile, Fastmarkets assessed the graphite flake 94% C, +80 mesh, cif Europe market at $830 per tonne on July 25, stable week on week but down from $900 per tonne at the start of the year.

Expandable graphite flake is used in the production of fire-resistant building products, textile and graphite foils.

"We will produce expandable material and supply it ready to expand by customers or it will go into fire-resistant materials and may never expand," Saxon said.

The company will primarily target buyers in Sweden and Germany.

Leading Edge Materials has no plans to re-join the flake spot market. Instead, it is focused on the value-added graphite market, such as expandable graphite, using flake from Woxna.

"Research and development will use all of our stored material – we will only restart the mine when the full supply chain in place," Saxon said.

The move into the graphite battery market will take longer to achieve than into expandable graphite to meet the standards and reliability required by the market.

"The biggest growth will be for EV [electric vehicle] batteries," Saxon said. "While the forecasts for demand are so good, we are all waiting – buyers don’t want to rush into things."  

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