The rapid development of NEVs will drive graphite demand in the near term, with global demand reaching 3 million tonnes by 2030, Gu Yan told delegates at the conference.

Graphite is widely used in low-end markets such as in refractory materials, foundry and lubrication, accounting for 75% of total graphite consumption, while demand from high-end markets including NEVs makes up the remaining 25%. But this is set to change, Gu said.

“With China and other countries continuing to promote the development of new energy vehicles and enlarging their application, new energy vehicles have stepped into a rapid development period. Graphite is widely used in anode materials for the batteries in new energy vehicles, so demand will surge as well,” Gu said.

Demand for anode materials, made using graphite, in China will reach 186,000 tonnes per year in 2020, according to Gu. Global demand for anode materials will be 250,000 tpy in the same year.

Wang Jionghui, China Minmetals’ president assistant and general manager of mineral resources department and Minmetals exploration & Development Co, agreed with the positive outlook for graphite demand in NEVs. Spherical graphite demand will exceed 1 million tonnes by 2020, Wang added.

Graphite prices will follow a trend of fluctuating growth in the near term because demand for traditional graphite products will maintain current levels while NEV demand increases, according to Wang.

Industrial Minerals assessed graphite flake, 94-97% C, -100 Mesh, FCL, prices, fob Qingdao, at $655-790 per tonne on Thursday April 19. Prices have maintained this level so far this year, rising from $555-690 per tonne in November 2017.

Spherical graphite prices, 99.95% C, 15 microns, stand at $2,700-2,800 per tonne fob China, up from $2,250-2,700 per tonne at the start of the year.

“In the future, there is little room for traditional industries like refractory industry to increase their demand for graphite, while the prospect for application of new energy vehicles and new materials is promising. High-end industry is facing great developing opportunities,” Wang said.