China is constructing graphite anode megafactories for the lithium ion battery surge

Three lithium ion battery graphite anode megafactories are being constructed in China and one in Japan as Asia prepares for a new wave of demand from electric vehicles.

Benchmark Mineral Intelligence can reveal that three graphite anode plants with an annual capacity of 100,000 tpa are being built by LuiMao Graphite in conjunction with BAIC Automotive Group Co., Ltd,  ShanShan Technology and BTR New Energy Materials, with Hitachi Chem building a new facility in Japan.

This will bring the total new capacity from the four anode megafactories to 360,000 tpa by 2020 – a tripling of capacity on today’s levels and enough to produce 300GWh of lithium ion cells or 6m pure EVs the size of Tesla’s Model 3.

It is a step change for the anode industry which averages spherical graphite plants in the region of 5,000-15,000 tpa in size.

On the balance of today’s raw material ratios being used by manufacturers, Benchmark anticipates this capacity will translate to an annual demand of 486,000 tonnes of flake graphite – nearly 80% of the market size in 2016 – and 139,000 tonnes of synthetic graphite.

This is in addition to an existing global natural and synthetic anode capacity of 200,000 tpa.

LuiMao’s plant with BAIC is seeking to use 100% natural flake graphite as its feedstock to produce 100,000 tpa of natural spherical graphite anode. This alone will require 220,000 tpa of flake graphite feedstock each year at capacity.

LuiMao will be keynoting Benchmark’s Graphite Supply Chain 2017 on 5-7 November, Newport Beach, USA and discussing this new project.

Benchmark onsite: a typical spherical graphite processing plant in China with a 5,000 tpa capacity (Credit: Benchmark Mineral Intelligence) 

9-times more graphite than cobalt

Graphite is the largest input raw material into a lithium ion battery.

There is nearly four times more graphite feedstock consumed in each lithium ion cell than lithium and 9 times more than cobalt.

While graphite anode can be derived from both natural and synthetic sources, China dominates the supply for both.

100% of natural spherical graphite is produced in China while over 80% of synthetic graphite is derived from the world’s most populous country.

Graphite has yet to receive as much attention as lithium and cobalt due to a number of reasons.

The first is that the graphite is a much larger market. In 2016, 650,000 tonnes of flake graphite was consumed compared with 180,000 tonnes of lithium chemicals and 100,000 tonnes of cobalt. This means the demand impact from lithium ion batteries is significantly less.

The second is that, unlike lithium and cobalt, flake graphite’s price is drive by its use in steel refractories rather than lithium ion batteries. This means that the price volatility experienced by its battery raw material counterparts as a result of battery demand is yet to hit the graphite sector in a significant way. However, as the battery market grows it is only a matter of time before the sector starts influencing graphite’s price curves.

The third point is that you can synthetically produce graphite albeit at a much higher cost and a larger CO2 footprint. This has absorbed some of the lithium ion battery demand impact to date.

Flake prices rising; China continues supply cuts

Having said that, flake graphite prices are beginning to rise on capacity cut backs in China.

In addition, more flake feedstock is being directed to value added applications, especially lithium ion battery anodes and expandable graphite for flame retardants.

All of these topics will be discussed at Graphite Supply Chain 2017 – the world’s leading forum for the natural graphite industry.

You can join us at Graphite Supply Chain 2017 by signing up – click here

We are only 3 weeks away from our annual Graphite Supply Chain 2017 Conference in partnership with IMFORMED.

This is the highest quality information and networking event in the graphite industry’s year and will focus on industrial versus lithium ion battery demand.

We have a superb selection of speakers including:
> Syrah Resources on building the world’s largest graphite mine
> Imerys on their new lithium ion battery anode mine to market strategy
> China’s Luimao on building the world’s largest graphite anode plant with BAIC Group
> Asbury Carbons‘ Stephen Riddle on selling and marketing different flake products
> Benchmark Mineral Intelligence‘s new anode forecast and flake graphite price update
> Romeo Power‘s Principal battery scientist on the role of anodes in enabling new applications
> Hans Eric Melin on the potential to recycle anodes and more
> Agenda can be viewed here: http://benchmarkminerals.com/graphite2017/agenda/

You can join us at Graphite Supply Chain 2017 by signing up – click here

Discounts are available to Benchmark Members, Battery Industry Executives and Investors. Email us directly on info@benchmarkminerals.com with the code GRAPHITE2017NB

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