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APPG Graphite Event Sets UK on Path Towards Green Industrial Revolution

Updated: Apr 5, 2022

Graphite is essential to the green energy transition, defence applications and future technologies. Without a secure supply of graphite, in addition to other critical minerals, the UK will not be able to achieve its Net Zero Strategy.

On the 30th March 2022 the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Critical Minerals hosted the very first roundtable focusing on graphite and graphene. The session was chaired by Cherilyn Mackrory, MP for Falmouth and Truro.

We were delighted to see the committee room in Parliament filled with industry representatives throughout the value chain.

The keynote speakers were:

· Paridhi Poddar & Christian Dennis, Tirupati Graphite

· Ben Stoikovich, Sovereign Metals

· Nicolas Cuevas-Gomez, Urbix

The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies has released a paper on graphite - 'Graphite: Supply chain challenges & recommendations for a critical mineral'. Tirupati Graphite operates primary mining and processing of graphite in Madagascar, and high tech graphite processing in India. Sovereign Metals has flake graphite projects in Malawi, and Urbix transforms graphite raw feed into electric vehicle LiB grade graphite.

Attendees to the event included Philips 66 (which produces synthetic graphite in the Humber Refinery), small exploration companies located across the globe from East Africa to Greenland, midstream processors, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), traders, investors, and service providers, as well as UK Government.

Nico Cuevas, CEO presenting at the APPG Critical Minerals Graphite Roundtable on 30 March 2022.

As we witness other governments supporting critical graphite projects, such as the $185M loan secured by Renascor from the Australian Critical Minerals Facility, it begs the question: what will the UK Government do to secure the necessary critical minerals for the green energy transition? How will it support British companies who can be a part of the solution?

The UK has an opportunity to develop these vital supply chains by creating a midstream and downstream processing capability at home.

Currently, processing and refining of graphite is concentrated in China, where standard processing practices may rely on high energy consumption and poorly handled toxic chemicals. Wherever in the world graphite may be mined, at some point in the supply chain, it will end up in China before it finally makes its way into an electric vehicle battery.

Source: Benchmark Mineral Intelligence State of the Industry March 2021; URBIX, Inc. analysis

The need for midstream and downstream processing diversification was echoed by our speakers and roundtable participants who highlighted the UK’s geographical advantage as a regional player. The UK’s freeports are prime locations for processing plants but land costs and energy prices often deter investment. Downstream processors and OEMs have increasingly turned to Scandinavia, Germany, and Poland due to greater Government support, lower energy prices and often subsidised land costs.

Industry highlighted that Britishvolt was able to secure an ideal site for its planned gigafactory, with suitable infrastructure and access to renewable energy. Industry felt that the UK Government could do more to ensure tax incentives and subsidies were provided for other projects of strategic importance, such as those involved in processing, to be able to secure similar sites in Teesside, Humber etc.

Graphite accounts for ~10% of the cost of a lithium-ion battery cell and battery-grade graphite (CSPG) is the largest active mineral inside a battery across all battery chemistries. Given that projected battery-grade graphite demand (~30% CAGR through 2030) is expected to outpace capacity by 2025, securing the supply to feed the UK’s planned gigafactories is paramount.

Nico Cuevas, CEO of Urbix stressed that we need both industries, natural and synthetic, to produce economically viable EV batteries, urging for collaboration around research & development. Industry agreed on the importance of the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC), but many felt that to ​help companies become commercially successful, the facility needs funding to scale up drastically.

A domestic midstream and downstream processing industry can add significant value. There are already several British companies operating overseas who would be willing to bring their feedstock into the UK for processing. Good quality deposits are necessary for steady midstream and downstream production.

In addition to job creation and boosting the economies of levelling up areas, processing raw materials close to gigafactories can also lower the carbon footprint of the value chain. Considering the UK law and regulations, graphite processed in the UK could have a reduced environmental impact compared to alternative sources. No electric vehicle or ‘green’ technology will be truly ‘green’ unless the raw materials are sourced and processed responsibly.

We would like to thank all our speakers and attendees who took part in this insightful roundtable. The Critical Minerals Association and the APPG for Critical Minerals will continue these conversations and hopes to develop pragmatic solutions through driving collaboration between the industry and government.

If you would like to find out more about graphite processing, we would recommend this HCSS paper co-authored by Jeff Amrish Ritoe.

Article by Olimpia Pilch, Business Development & Communications Associate, Critical Minerals Association

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