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Graphite: An Essential Material in the Battery Supply Chain

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The following content is sponsored by Northern Graphite

Graphite: An Essential Material in the Battery Supply Chain

The demand for lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries has skyrocketed in recent years due to the increasing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs) and renewable energy storage systems.

What many people don’t realize, however, is that the key component of these batteries is not just lithium, but also graphite.

Graphite represents almost 50% of the materials needed for batteries by weight, regardless of the chemistry. In Li-ion batteries specifically, graphite makes up the anode, which is the negative electrode responsible for storing and releasing electrons during the charging and discharging process.

To explore just how essential graphite is in the battery supply chain, this infographic sponsored by Northern Graphite dives into how the anode of a Li-ion battery is made.

What is Graphite?

Graphite is a naturally occurring form of carbon that is used in a wide range of industrial applications, including in synthetic diamonds, EV Li-ion batteries, pencils, lubricants, and semiconductor substrates.

It is stable, high-performing, and reusable. While it comes in many different grades and forms, battery-grade graphite falls into one of two classes: natural or synthetic.

Natural graphite is produced by mining naturally occurring mineral deposits. This method produces only one to two kilograms of CO2 emissions per kilogram of graphite.

Synthetic graphite, on the other hand, is produced by the treatment of petroleum coke and coal tar, producing nearly 5 kg of CO2 per kilogram of graphite along with other harmful emissions such as sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide.

A Closer Look: How Graphite Turns into a Li-ion Battery Anode

The battery anode production process is composed of four overarching steps. These are:

  1. Mining
  2. Shaping
  3. Purifying
  4. Coating

Each of these stages results in various forms of graphite with different end-uses.

For instance, the micronized graphite that results from the shaping process can be used in plastic additives. On the other hand, only coated spherical purified graphite that went through all four of the above stages can be used in EV Li-ion batteries.

The Graphite Supply Chain

Despite its growing use in the energy transition all around the world, around 70% of the world’s graphite currently comes from China.

With scarce alternatives to be used in batteries, however, achieving supply security in North America is crucial, and it is using more environmentally friendly approaches to graphite processing.

With a lower environmental footprint and lower production costs, natural graphite serves as the anode material for a greener future.

Click here to learn more about how Northern Graphite plans to build the largest Battery Anode Material (BAM) plant in North America.

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Electrification

Will Direct Lithium Extraction Disrupt the $90B Lithium Market?

Visual Capitalist and EnergyX explore how direct lithium extraction could disrupt the $90B lithium industry.

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Will Direct Lithium Extraction Disrupt the $90B Lithium Market?

Current lithium extraction and refinement methods are outdated, often harmful to the environment, and ultimately inefficient. So much so that by 2030, lithium demand will outstrip supply by a projected 1.42 million metric tons. But there is a solution: Direct lithium extraction (DLE).

For this graphic, we partnered with EnergyX to try to understand how DLE could help meet global lithium demands and change an industry that is critical to the clean energy transition.

The Lithium Problem

Lithium is crucial to many renewable energy technologies because it is this element that allows EV batteries to react. In fact, it’s so important that projections show the lithium industry growing from $22.2B in 2023 to nearly $90B by 2030.

But even with this incredible growth, as you can see from the table, refined lithium production will need to increase 86.5% over and above current projections.

2022 (million metric tons)2030P (million metric tons)
Lithium Carbonate Demand0.461.21
Lithium Hydroxide Demand0.181.54
Lithium Metal Demand00.22
Lithium Mineral Demand0.070.09
Total Demand0.713.06
Total Supply0.751.64

The Solution: Direct Lithium Extraction

DLE is a process that uses a combination of solvent extraction, membranes, or adsorbents to extract and then refine lithium directly from its source. LiTASTM, the proprietary DLE technology developed by EnergyX, can recover an incredible 300% more lithium per ton than existing processes, making it the perfect tool to help meet lithium demands.

Additionally, LiTASTM can refine lithium at the lowest cost per unit volume directly from brine, an essential step in meeting tomorrow’s lithium demand and manufacturing next-generation batteries, while significantly reducing the footprint left by lithium mining.

Hard Rock MiningUnderground ReservoirsDirect Lithium Extraction
Direct CO2 Emissions15,000 kg5,000 kg3.5 kg
Water Use170 m3469 m334-94 m3
Lithium Recovery Rate58%30-40%90%
Land Use464 m23124 m20.14 m2
Process TimeVariable18 months1-2 days

Providing the World with Lithium

DLE promises to disrupt the outdated lithium industry by improving lithium recovery rates and slashing emissions, helping the world meet the energy demands of tomorrow’s electric vehicles.

EnergyX is on a mission to become a worldwide leader in the sustainable energy transition using groundbreaking direct lithium extraction technology. Don’t miss your chance to join companies like GM and invest in EnergyX to transform the future of renewable energy.

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Electrification

Chart: The $400 Billion Lithium Battery Value Chain

In this graphic, we break down where the $400 billion lithium battery industry will generate revenue in 2030.

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EnergyX_Breaking-Down-the-Battery-Value-Chain

Breaking Down the $400 Billion Battery Value Chain

As the world transitions away from fossil fuels toward a greener future, the lithium battery industry could grow fivefold by 2030. This shift could create over $400 billion in annual revenue opportunities globally.

For this graphic, we partnered with EnergyX to determine how the battery industry could grow by 2030.

Exploring the Battery Value Chain

The lithium battery value chain has many links within it that each generate their own revenue opportunities, these include:

  • Critical Element Production: Involves the mining and refining of materials used in a battery’s construction.
  • Active materials: Creating and developing materials that react electrochemically to allow batteries to charge and discharge.
  • Battery cells: Involves the production of rechargeable elements of a battery.
  • Battery packs: Producing packs containing a series of connected battery cells. Generally, these come in two types: NMC/NMCA, the standard in North America and Europe, and LFP, the standard in China.
  • Recycling: Reusing battery components within new batteries.

But these links aren’t equal, each one is projected to generate different levels of revenue by 2030:

China 🇨🇳Europe 🇪🇺United States 🇺🇸Rest of World 🌍
Total$184B$118B$62B$39B
Critical Element Production$37B$25B$15B$8B
Active Materials$54B$31B$14B$11B
Battery Packs$34B$22B$11B$7B
Battery Cells$53B$37B$20B$11B
Recycling$6B$3B$2B$2B

On the surface, battery cell production may contribute the most revenue to the battery value chain. However, lithium production can generate margins as high as 65%, meaning lithium production has potential to yield large margins.

How Much Lithium Is Available?

Just a few countries hold 81% of the world’s viable lithium. So, supply bottlenecks could slow the growth of the lithium battery industry:

NationViable Lithium Reserves (2023)
Chile 🇨🇱9.3M t
Australia 🇦🇺6.2M t
Argentina 🇦🇷2.7M t
China 🇨🇳2M t
U.S. 🇺🇸1M t
Rest of World 🌍4.9M t

Supplying the World With Batteries

Supplying the world with lithium is critical to the battery value chain and a successful transition from fossil fuels. Players like the U.S. and the EU, with increasingly large and growing lithium needs, will need to maximize local opportunities and work together to meet demand.

EnergyX is on a mission to become a world leader in the global transition to sustainable energy, using cutting-edge direct lithium extraction to help supply the world with lithium.

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