In recent years, the global graphite market has witnessed growth at a substantial rate, mainly driven by the increasing demand from booming downstream sectors including electronic devices and electric vehicles around the world. China has been dominating the global graphite market with the world’s highest graphite production and graphite exports during the last decade. As the global demand for graphite continues to be considerably high, the graphite market in China is expected to expand further, and create more business opportunities for leading graphite producers in China.
Usually found in metamorphic rocks, meteorites and igneous rocks, graphite is a form of carbon that has the ability to conduct electricity, it’s highly greasy characteristic also makes it an ideal industrial lubricant. Apart from most commonly seen in pencils, graphite powder is nowadays widely used in the automotive industry for making motors, cylinder heads, exhaust systems, clutch materials, disk brake pads etc; and electronics industry for making batteries. Furthermore, graphite powder is also used to manufacture ultra-lightweight CFRP (carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic) that are normally seen in the aerospace industries.
The rising application of graphite in industrial and commercial sectors has been driving the market growth at a strong pace. According to a recent report from MarketsandMarkets, the global graphite market is expected to reach US$ 29.05 Billion by 2022, registering a CAGR of 5.2% from 2017 to 2022. The staggering growth of several downstream industries, particularly steel, automotive, electronics, and aerospace sectors, has directly facilitated the production and exports of graphite around the world.
The demand for graphite from leading manufacturers of electric and hybrid vehicles has witnessed the largest increase over the past few years as those rechargeable lithium-ion batteries consume twice the amount of graphite than lithium carbonate. Meanwhile, the rising demand for smartphones, mobile devices, and other electronics has also significantly contributed to the increased use of graphite. As technology continues to evolve, the use of graphite in an increasing number of applications is also expected to further push the growth of the global graphite market in the near future.
Geographically, Asia-Pacific is currently the fastest-growing region in the global graphite market with China in lead. In recent years, several new graphite plants were established in the Asia-Pacific and various long-term agreements were signed between graphite manufacturers in the Asia-Pacific and companies operating in the automotive and wind energy industries in Europe, contributing hugely to the growth of the graphite market in the region. Some of the world’s largest graphite suppliers include China Graphite Ltd., Hitachi Chemical Co., Ltd., Asbury Graphite Mills, Inc., Nippon Graphite Industries, Conoco Phillips, Superior Graphite Co., Graphit Kropfmuhl, and GrafTech International.
Chine has been dominating the global graphite production and graphite exports since the 1990s. According to the latest data from US Geological Survey, China produced more than 780 million tones of graphite in 2016, representing over 67% of the world’s total output. Despite the fact that the country has made huge effort to streamline graphite production to reduce environmental pollution, with the estimation that Chinese graphite flake production declined by over 30% since 2012 due to the closure of uneconomic mines, its leading position in the global graphite production is still expected to continue.
The latest biggest movement in China’s graphics industry has seen that the Chinese firms Shanshan Technology, BTR New Energy Materials and LuiMao Graphite (in association with BAIC Automotive Group) are building lithium-ion battery graphite anode mega factories with a total processing capacity of 260,000 metric tons per year.
When it comes to graphite exports, China is also leading the way. In 2016, China exported over US$228.5 million worth of natural graphite to the global market, representing over 57% of the world’s total graphite supply in that year. Most of the Chinese produced graphite is exported to Japan (32%), South Korea (30%), the EU (12%), and the US (6%). Both the domestic and international manufactures of lithium-ion batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles is currently the largest factor for consumption for China’s graphite output.
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