The graphite market is expected to register a CAGR of over 5% during the forecast period. The major factors driving the growth of the market studied include the augmenting demand from the burgeoning lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery industry and rise in steel production in Asia and the Middle East.
- On the flipside, the development of substitute anode materials for lithium-ion batteries in high-end applications, stringent environmental regulations, and the impact of COVID-19 outbreak are expected to hinder the growth of the market studied.
- Growing usage of graphite in green technologies and the popularity of graphene are projected to offer opportunities for the manufacturers over the forecast period.
Key Market Trends
Natural Graphite to Drive the Market Growth
- Natural graphite is used in refractories, foundries, crucibles, lubricants, batteries, and expendable.
- The current major application of natural graphite is in refractories, casting, and foundries. In 2019, this application accounted for about 45% of the natural graphite market. It is also expected to witness a considerable growth rate over the forecast period.
- However, the batteries segment is expected to be the fastest-growing application over the next five years, and it is expected to the largest application by 2024.
- The increasing demand for graphite, for its usage in lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles, consumer electronics, and other electricity storage applications, is expected to increase the demand for natural graphite. The manufacturing capacity of the global lithium-ion battery market is expected to increase by four times, over its 2019 level, to reach around 1200 GWh in 2024.
- Furthermore, natural graphite is a low-cost alternative to synthetic graphite. This is further expected to increase the demand for natural graphite.
- However, the supply of natural graphite is scarce. Thus, the price of natural graphite is expected to rise during the forecast period.
- ll these factors are expected to increase the demand for natural graphite, during the forecast period
China to Dominate the Asia-Pacific Market
- In Asia-Pacific, China is the largest economy, in terms of GDP. The annual growth rate of the country’s GDP was 6.6% in 2018, and 6.3% in 2019. China is one of the fastest-growing economies, globally. Additionally, almost all the end-user industries in the country have been growing, owing to the rising population, living standards, and per capita income. China continues to dominate graphite production and demand. Almost all stages of the lithium-ion battery manufacturing chains are focused in China, and the country is by far the largest and most rapidly growing market for lithium-ion batteries, which paves the way for the market growth of graphite.
- However, owing to the international trade turbulences and unfavorable geopolitical affairs, the growth rate is expected to slow down initially, during the forecast period. Moreover, the COVD-19 pandemic is having a substantial economic impact, as the Chinese economy contracted by 6.8% for the first time in decades, in Q1 2020, as the virus forced factories and businesses to shut down.
- In October 2018, the Dutch startup company, Lithium Werks, signed an agreement to build a new battery factory in the Yangtze river delta, with an investment of EUR 1.6 billion (around USD 1.8 billion). This makes China the premier destination to produce lithium-ion batteries effectively and cheaply, moving ahead of the East Asian rivals, Japan and South Korea.
- Graphite has also found application in the steel making industry. China holds the largest share, in terms of consumption and production capacity of graphite electrodes in the global scenario. China has produced nearly 520 thousand metric ton of graphite electrode, of which nearly 62% share was utilized for domestic consumption. In this scenario, graphite is being increasingly used by the steel making industries for niche applications.
- The current production capacity of UHP graphite electrodes in China is around 50 thousand metric ton per year. The demand for UHP electrodes in China is also expected to witness a significant growth in a long term, and an additional capacity of over 50 thousand metric tons of UHP graphite electrodes is likely to be witnessed in the later phases of the forecast period.
- The demand for lithium-ion batteries in China is expected to grow rapidly, owing to the growth in adoption of new energy vehicles (NEVs) and ESS for on-grid and off-grid applications.
- The development of NEVs is further boosted by the mandates put forth by the government. For instance, in 2018, the NEV credit mandate went into effect, thereby, setting a minimum production requirement for the car manufacturing industry. Additionally, China has adopted a national New Energy Vehicle Subsidy Program, to further boost the production of EVs.
- Chinese manufacturers have rushed to install capacity for graphite electrodes, since the country has begun to commit heavily to higher rates of steel production, via electric arc furnace, in 2017. The proportion of steel produced in electric arc furnace in China may double from 10% in 2018, to around 20% by 2028. In this regards, the country have been steadily increasing the number of plants using electric arc furnace for steel production.
- However, currently, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the economic and industrial manufacturing activities have been affected significantly in the country. As of mid-2020, IMF predicted that China is likely to register a GDP growth of about 1.2% in 2020, which reflects a significant decline from 6.1% in 2019.
- On the bright side, as of March 2020, China has lifted the lockdown and started various industrial operations in the country, while other countries are still aggressively engaged in lockdowns and medical treatments. Hence, from the above-mentioned factors, the demand for graphite in China may get affected in a short run. However, the industrial demand is expected to normalize by 2021
The market for graphite is consolidated with the top five players of natural graphite and synthetic graphite accounting for a major share of the market, in their respective fields. The top five players in the global synthetic graphite market are Hitachi Chemical Co. Ltd, Showa Denko K. K. (including SGL Carbon), BTR New Energy Materials Inc,, GrafTech International., and Lianyungang Jinli Carbon Co. Ltd. The key players of natural graphite include Syrah Resources Limited, Qingdao Guangxing Electronic Materials Co. Ltd., Qingdao Black Dragon Graphite Co. Ltd., and Tokai Carbon, among others.
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