Triton is developing world class projects for the expanding graphite market.

Graphite transformation underway

Graphite demand has long been shaped by trends in the steel market. But the rise of the lithium-ion battery largely driven by the rapid growth of the emerging electric vehicle (EV) and energy storage battery markets, has sparked a dynamic change in graphite markets.

This market is being driven by the unprecedented demand for the raw materials enabling the production of lithium ion batteries, to meet the growth of the electric vehicle market and battery storage for renewable energy sector. Despite the name, lithium-ion batteries require more graphite than lithium to produce.

Rapidly growing markets

EV and Energy storage battery market

UBS global auto analysts forecast EV sales to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 46% between 2020 and 2025. According to Bloomberg this growth will see electric vehicles making up 35% of global car sales by 2040.

According to Forbes, the energy storage market is also forecast for growth with the market seeing falling pricing and favourable policies coming into effect. GTM Research and the Energy storage association estimates the annual value of the US energy storage market will exceed US $1.2 billion in 2019.

Government policies continue to drive investments in batteries, EVs and charging infrastructure but investments in raw materials is lagging.

The growth of EV is driving demand for natural graphite and other raw materials. As EV and lithium-ion ESS penetration rates rise in China and the rest of the world, Roskill Information Services forecasts total global graphite demand in battery applications to rise by 16-26% per year to 2026.

Graphite is the key anode material in Lithium Ion batteries and Benchmark Minerals Intelligence now estimate that graphite supply is a concern.

Based on Benchmark Minerals Intelligence forecast Mega Factory growth, 1.2 million to 1.5 million tonnes of natural flake graphite will be needed each year for mega factory demand only.

Benchmark Minerals Intelligence forecasts a flake graphite supply deficit is forecast as early as 2025 even after factoring highly probable, probable and possible additional tonnes from global projects.

Worldwide the automotive industry is getting ready.

Tesla has invested US$5 billion and is ramping up lithium-ion battery production at its US ‘Gigafactory’ and is expected to announce a second factory to supply Europe later in 2017. Other large lithium-ion battery plants include BMC in Germany and LG Chem in Poland, Samsung SDI in Hungary(due to open in 2018), SGF Energy in Sweden is also building a plant, which could be shared between Jaguar Land Rover, BMW and Ford.

Key growth drivers.

Worldwide cities are coming under increasing pressure to cut pollution levels and EVs could provide an answer.

The signing of the the Paris agreement in December 2015 is the first universal legally binding global climate deal and it is driving long term legislative change across many countries simultaneously – as countries seek to meet the global action plan by limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

China has implemented legislative changes that are placing equal importance on environmental protection as economic growth. Environmental policies are now being strictly enforced.

Technology developments resulting in advancements in renewable energy and renewable energy is increasingly becoming part of the energy solution

Battery storage the next step in the evolution to the energy mix.

Flame Retardant market

We are currently focused on the expandable graphite market as we bring the Upulo (Ancuabe) project to development. Expandable graphite is a key component in flame retardant materials. Research indicates the global demand for flame retardants is expected to increase by 4.6% per year and the flame-retardant market is expected to be worth USD$12.81 billion by 2021.

Key growth drivers

Legislative changes around the world are mandating the use of flame retardant building materials with some existing commonly used flame retardants being banned paving the way for new materials such as graphite.

China’s focus on flame retardant building materials is driven in part by large scale fires causing loss of lives and significant property damage, most notably at the Tianjin Port in December 2015.

China has mandated the use of fire retardant building materials in all new buildings and has banned traditional brominate flame retardants.

The tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London in June 2017 has highlighted fire safety as a global issue for the commercial and residential construction industry.

Traditional applications

The first known use of graphite was as a pigment for paints, dating back to the 4th millennium BC. Since then the materials refractory and lubricant properties have made it useful as a crucible, for the development of alloys, and in early military applications – such as making moulds for cannonballs.

In modern times graphite has been used in steel production, brake pad manufacture and as a speciality lubricant.

Most people would be familiar with graphite as the dark material found in what is commonly referred to as a “lead” pencil. The modern pencil lead is most commonly a mix of powdered graphite and clay, which is not chemically related to the lead often referred to in the pencil’s name.