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The global graphite market is projected to accelerate at a CAGR of around 6% from 2018-2022, according to Technavio. Rising demand for lithium-ion batteries, where graphite is extensively used as an anode material, is a key factor driving market growth. The increasing use of graphite in the automotive, steel and photovoltaic industries is also expected to create strong demand. Refractories held the largest market share in 2017, accounting for around 63%; refractories demand for graphite is expected to grow steadily through 2022.21

Graphite demand is about to enter a period of rapid growth and price escalation, according Roskill. Consumption had previously been led by steel market applications and Chinese industrialization, but had slowed as Chinese steel output growth slowed from 2010-2017. However, rapid growth in demand for natural flake graphite and synthetic graphite in the lithium-ion battery industry is now forecast to underpin total graphite demand growth of 5-7% per year, between 2017-2027. By 2027, consumption of graphite in battery applications could be 5-10 times higher than the current level, depending on the uptake of lithium-ion battery-based electric vehicles (EVs) and other lithium-ion battery applications. Meanwhile, the steel industry, which is the historic driver of graphite production and prices, has been through a number of dramatic changes since 2017, driven by environmental protection in China. Steelmaking drives the major markets for synthetic graphite in electrodes and the market for natural graphite in refractories.22

Focusing specifically on the synthetic graphite market, Transparency Market Research forecasts a CAGR of 6.3% from 2018-2026, with the market in North America reaching over $8.4 billion. In terms of volume, Asia-Pacific and North America represent the leading regions for the synthetic graphite market. The market in Asia-Pacific is projected to expand at a substantial pace in terms of value, followed by North America and Europe. In addition, the Latin America market is estimated to expand considerably due to increasing demand from the electronics industry, as well as lithium-ion batteries.23

According to Knowledge Sourcing Intelligence LLP, the market for global spherical graphite is projected to grow at a strong CAGR of 19.6% from 2017-2023. Spherical graphite, which is formed by turning flat flakes of natural graphite into spherical shapes and purifying them, finds use in the efficient operation of lithium-ion batteries.24

China produced 67% of the world’s natural graphite in 2017; of that amount, approximately 70% was amorphous and 30% was flake. Natural graphite was not produced in the U.S., though two companies are developing graphite projects.

Domestic imports for consumption jumped 28.2% to 50,000 t in 2017 (75% flake and high-purity, 24% amorphous, and 1% lump and chip graphite). Principal U.S. import sources were (in descending order of tonnage) China, Mexico, Canada, Brazil and Madagascar. Apparent consumption of natural graphite dipped 4% to 24,000 t valued at $42.9 million; major uses included brake linings, lubricants, powdered metals, refractories, and steelmaking. U.S. exports of natural graphite skyrocketed by 85.7% to 26,000 t in 2017.

(Via: Media Partner of CERAMICS CHINA 2019, Ceramic Industry Magazine, https://www.ceramicindustry.com/articles/97534-raw-manufactured-materials-2019-overview