InvestorIntel Interview: Northern Graphite’s Greg Bowes on “Why Graphite Should be Next”
- Northern Files Patent Application for Purification Technology
- Northern Signs Exclusive Technology Licensing Agreement with Hatch Ltd.
- Northern Graphite Closes Private Placement
- Northern Hires Senior Consultant for Value Added Processing
- Northern Graphite Improves Yield of Large Flake Graphite
- Northern Graphite Hires Senior Marketing Consultant
- Northern Successfully Upgrades Concentrate Purity
- Northern Graphite Hires Senior Process Consultant
- Will the Graphite Industry Take Off?
- Northern Advances Purification Technology
- Natural Graphite is the Solution for Tesla
What management thinks about...
Recently, large flake graphite prices have increased well over 30% after a long period of depressed prices caused by the slowdown in the Chinese economy and lower steel demand. While still early stages, this is the first real sign that the steel market is improving and most important, that the continued 20% annual growth in the lithium ion battery market is finally doing for graphite prices what it has already done for lithium and cobalt. Large flake (+80 mesh) graphite is now selling for up to US$$1,200 per tonne compared to US$750/t earlier in the year. Prices peaked at $2,800/t in 2012 which was largely due to the commodity super cycle and steel demand as batteries were a small part of the market. Batteries now account for approximately 25% of graphite demand and continue to grow rapidly. Steel demand is also recovering and many Chinese producers are shutting down for the winter, both of which are very positive for graphite prices.
China produces over 70% of the world’s graphite. Its industry is very fragmented with many labor and environmental issues and mines that are getting older, deeper and higher cost. China is modernizing and consolidating much of its mining industry to provide for more professional management of its resources. Recently, over 30% of Chinese flake graphite production was shut down, either because it was uneconomic or for environmental reasons. Also, China wants to export value added products, not raw materials, and therefore it has an export licensing system and resource nationalism is an increasing concern. China is building a number of LiB “megafactories” which will consume a lot of their production. For these reasons, Chinese graphite production and exports are likely to decline in the future and stable, secure sources of high quality supply in the west are needed. Recently China announced that it is going to build a flake graphite stockpile equal to 80% of annual production by 2020 which indicates they think there is a supply problem.
Graphene is one of the top research topics in the world with billions of dollars of funding committed. At present there is no process for making commercial quantities of graphene and there are no commercial products based on the unique properties of real graphene. Dozens if not hundreds of organizations are working on these challenges and once solved, the results could revolutionize the way we work and live. Natural graphite is one source of graphene and will probably supply lower technology applications such as conductive inks and coatings and composite materials. There are up to three million layers of graphene in a one millimeter thickness of graphite so a little goes a long way.How graphene might change the world
EVs are not going to replace the internal combustion engine. However, there are many uses and markets where they make sense including short range commuting, city driving, taxis and delivery vehicles. EVs only need to become modestly successful to have a big effect on the graphite market. If one per cent of the new car market (about 700,000 cars) were EVs, world flake graphite production would have to increase by about 30% and multiple new mines would be required. The proposed Tesla “gigafactory” requires up to six new mines. China alone plans on having five million EVs by 2020.
Expandable graphite is one of the fastest growing markets along with Li ion batteries. It involves treating XL flake graphite with a dilute acid solution and heating it to cause the flakes to split apart and increase hundreds of time in volume. This material is pressed into sheets which can be cut into shapes and used in many applications including thermal management in consumer electronics, advanced building materials, heat and corrosion resistant gaskets, fuel cells and flow batteries. Expandable graphite is the only graphite market to experience rising prices in recent years and Chinese production of extra large flake, which is required to make it, is declining.