China has transitioned into a major importer of natural graphite, increasing monthly shipments from Africa by almost 2,000 per cent since the start of 2018 to exceed 22kt in May.

pg20Chinese imports of natural graphite (excluding low value crude material from North Korea) were less than 1ktpm prior to December 2017, though have since risen with the increasing availability of flake graphite from Mozambique and Madagascar.

Roskill’s new Natural & Synthetic Graphite: Outlook to 2028 report explores the reasons behind this sudden increase and forecasts the dynamic supply scenario for natural flake graphite over the next decade.

The report states that initially China began importing graphite from Madagascar, where several companies are looking to ramp-up production of flake graphite including the long-term producer Établissements Gallois, and companies with newly re-developed projects such as Bass Metals of Australia (Graphmada) and Tirupati Group of India (Sahamamy). Madagascar is known for production of very large size flake graphite, a size fraction for which China has relatively limited resources.

While China has large resources of battery-grade flake graphite, many of those deposits being exploited are getting deeper and more expensive to mine. Coupled with rising environmental costs and other costs of production, China is looking increasingly to foreign sources of supply.

Syrah Resources began production at its large-scale Balama flake graphite project in Mozambique in late 2017 and ramped up to more than 104kt of production in 2018; the vast majority of its shipments have been destined for the Chinese battery industry.

Roskill points out that China is the largest producer of lithium-ion batteries, the anodes for these batteries, and the anode materials on which they are based. It is also the largest supplier of flake graphite and the only commercial-scale supplier of spherical graphite – the added value product processed from flake graphite for use, almost exclusively, in lithium-ion battery anodes.

With Roskill forecasting rapid growth in the battery market, demand for raw material flake graphite in this sector is expected to grow at more than 19 per cent per year through to 2028. Although some ROW suppliers are looking to break into the spherical graphite supply chain, the focus of the battery industry will remain on China and ensure that imports of flake graphite into China for processing and onward supply into the battery industry will increase strongly over the next decade.

Existing producers continue to ramp up production in both China and the ROW but a significant amount of new supply is poised to come on-line. Roskill estimates African projects to account for 63 per cent of new planned first stage capacity that has the potential to contribute to global supply by the end of the decade. Not all of these projects will be realised, however, as there are high barriers to entry for flake graphite and, specifically, value added downstream flake products.

According to the Roskill report, “the effect of releasing such large amounts of new material into the market has placed downward pressure on the price of natural flake graphite since H2 2018.”


中国将在2019下半年打破天然石墨进口纪录

中国已转变为天然石墨的主要进口国,自2018年初以来,中国每月从非洲进口的石墨增加了近2000%,甚至在5月份超过了2.2万吨的进口量。

在2017年12月之前,中国进口的天然石墨(不包括来自朝鲜的低价原油材料)低于每个月一万吨。中国石墨进口量随着莫桑比克和马达加斯加的片状石墨供应的增加而有所上升。

Roskill的报告《新天然和合成石墨:展望2028》探讨了这一突然增长的背后原因,并预测了未来十年天然鳞片石墨的动态供应情况。

报告称,中国最初开始从马达加斯加进口石墨,同时期马达加斯加的几家公司正在寻求增加片状石墨产量的机会,包括长期生产商加洛伊斯(Etablissements Gallois),以及拥有澳大利亚柏斯金属(Bass Metals)和印度蒂鲁帕蒂(Tirupati Group )等新开发项目的公司。马达加斯加以生产非常大的片状石墨而闻名,而中国对这种尺寸的石墨资源则相对有限。

尽管中国拥有大量的电池级别的片状石墨资源,但许多正在开采的石墨矿变得越来越深以致于开采成本也越来越高。这导致了随着环境成本和其他生产成本的不断上升,中国也越来越多地依赖外国的来源供应。

2017年底,西拉资源(Syrah Resources)在莫桑比克的大型Balama flake石墨项目开始投入生产,石墨产量在2018年已经超过了104万吨。该项目的绝大多数石墨都销往中国的电池行业。

罗斯基尔指出,中国是锂离子电池的最大生产国,锂离子电池的阳极以及锂离子电池的负极材料都是中国制造的。中国也是最大的片状石墨供应商和唯一的商业规模的球状石墨供应商 --球状石墨是由片状石墨加工而成的附加值产品,几乎完全用于锂离子电池阳极。

罗斯基尔预测,随着电池市场的迅速增长,预计到2028年,电池行业对片状石墨原材料的需求将以每年多于19%的速度增长。尽管一些石墨原材料的供应商正在寻求进入球形石墨供应链的道路,但电池行业的重点仍将放在中国,并确保在未来10年内,大幅度增加从中国进口的用于加工和供应电池行业的片状石墨的数量。

中国和石墨原材料的现有生产商都在继续提高产量,但许多新的供应商也纷纷加入战线。罗斯基尔估计,在新规划的第一阶段,非洲项目会占产能的63%,在未来的十年内,这些产能也有可能为全球供应做出贡献。然而,对于片状石墨,并不是所有的这些项目都能实现,特别是下游增值片状产品来说,进入壁垒的可能性很高。

根据Roskill的报告,“自2018年下半年以来,向市场释放大量的新材料给天然鳞片石墨的价格带来了下降的压力。”

pg21a

中国还是石墨的主要出口国(2018年数据)。资料来源:Tridge Market Intelligence - China is also a leading graphite exporter (2018 data). Source: Tridge Market Intelligence
pg21b

2014年至2018年全球石墨矿产量的主要国家(以1,000公吨计)。资料来源:Statista - Major countries in worldwide graphite mine production from 2014 to 2018 (in 1,000 metric tonnes). Source: Statista
 

*Article published in the October-December 2019 issue of The Asia Miner

 

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