China continues to be the major supplier to the world for graphite with around 70% of total natural supply, but is also a net importer with growing consumption needs in their industry. Given environmental concerns, consistency issues and marginal economics on the majority of their lower quality natural graphite mines, some operations are being shut down or consolidated and further closures to Chinese graphite mines are expected.
While supply out of China is slowing, demand is growing strongly through new technology from significant end users. In addition to this, end users are seeking greater diversity of supply.
The global graphite market currently is ~2.2 mtpa and approximately 50% comprises natural graphite (flake and amorphous sources) with the key producers China, India and Brazil. Synthetic graphite made from petroleum coke makes up the remainder and is energy intensive and hence expensive and not environmentally friendly although total graphite content levels are high. The demand for natural graphite is expected to increase rapidly with the new technology advancements and the natural-for-synthetic displacement potential is very high.
There is a global movement towards the adoption of cleaner energy technology via means such as transport and energy storage.