Graphite: The Driving Force Behind Green Technology
The Graphite Market
Global consumption of natural graphite has increased from approximately 600,000 tonnes in 2000 to roughly 1.1 million tonnes in 2011. Demand for graphite has been increasing by approximately 5 per cent per year since 2000 due to the continuing modernization ofChina,Indiaand other emerging economies, resulting in strong demand from traditional end uses such as the steel and automotive industries. Graphite also has many important new applications such as lithium-ion batteries, fuel cells, and nuclear and solar power that have the potential to create significant incremental demand growth. There is roughly 10-20 times more graphite in a lithium-ion battery than there is lithium. Demand for graphite is expected to rise as electric vehicles and lithium battery technology are adopted.
Natural graphite comes in several forms: flake, amorphous and lump. Of the 1.1 million tonnes of graphite produced annually, approximately 40 per cent is of the most desirable flake type. China, which produces about 70 per cent of the world’s graphite, is seeing production and export growth leveling, and export taxes and a licensing system have been instituted. A recent European Commission study regarding the criticality of 41 different materials to the European economy included graphite among the 14 materials high in both economic importance and supply risk (Critical Raw Materials for the EU, July 2010).