Graphite is the most stable form of carbon under standard conditions. Graphite occurs in metamorphic rocks as a result of the reduction of sedimentary carbon compounds during metamorphism.
Its four main properties are:
It is an excellent electrical conductor
It forms extremely strong cohesive bonds
It is heat resistant to 3,000ºC
It is resistant to solvents, dilute acids and fused alkalis.
These widespread properties have seen demand increasing rapidly, with the major uses being refractories for steelmaking, batteries, expanded graphite, brake linings, foundry facings and lubricants. Besides these rather traditional uses there is a wealth of emerging applications including lithium-ion batteries, fuel cells, pebble bed nuclear reactors, ceramic armour tiles and a variety of special applications of graphene in the high-tech industry, which will lead to a greatly increased demand.
Lithium-ion batteries Graphite Demand
Graphite accounts for more than 53% of the mineral demand in batteries while lithium comprises only 4% (World Bank). Graphite is the largest component in lithium-ion batteries by weight, with each battery containing 20-30% graphite, and every one million EV's requires 75000 tonnes of natural graphite. With demand for electric vehicles expected to reach up to 14 million in 2023 (>10 million in 2022 (up 55% from 2021)), and further demand for energy storage units enabling the use of power generated by solar/wind during off-peak periods, more than 400 giga-factories are now forecast in the pipeline to be in operation by 2030. The global gigawatt hours demanded to meet this growth is almost nine terawatt hours of annual production capacity, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence (BMI). The 400th gigafactory to be added to the pipeline is Tata Group's 40 gigawatt-hour UK-based facility due to begin production in 2026.
Used in electronic products like smart phones/tablets
Graphite paper sheet
Used for sealing gaskets, tapes and packing
For flammable retardant materials
Used in numerous ways including electronic, medical, chemical and industrial processes
According to the Global Electric Vehicle Outlook 2023 by the International Energy Agency (IEA), over 10 million electric cars were sold worldwide in 2022, and an additional 35% growth is expected this year, bringing the sales figure to 14 million. This rapid expansion has propelled the electric cars’ proportion of the total car market from approximately 4% in 2020 to 14% in 2022, and the IEA predicts it will soon cross 18%. The expected share of electric car sales by 2030 has risen from 25% in their previous outlook to 35%.