Australian companies have found numerous mines in various countries in Africa, extending from Madagascar to Mozambique to Tanzania. The proximity of these mines to the ports and the availability of low-cost labor have attracted some companies seeking to fuel advancements in graphite anode technology for use in lithium-ion-based energy storage.
Syrah Resources Limited, an industrial minerals and technology company, recently signed an exclusive, long-term research and development agreement with Cadenza Innovation, a provider of energy storage solutions for license to Li-ion battery pack manufacturers.
Syrah claims to have the only major, fully funded, natural graphite development project in construction, known as the Balama Project in Mozambique. Balama production is targeted to supply both traditional industrial graphite markets and emerging technology markets. Currently under development, Balama will be the leading global producer of high purity natural graphite by 2020, claims the company. Syrah projects to produce about 40% market share from its Balama operation.
The company says it has completed extensive product certification test work with several major battery producers for the use of Balama spherical graphite in the anode of lithium-ion batteries.
Notably, Syrah has a downstream processing facility in development in U.S.-based Louisiana, an integral component of the company agreement with Cadenza. Under the terms of the agreement, Cadenza and Syrah will develop and test advanced Battery Anode Materials (BAM), signaling a strong commitment to the development of proprietary downstream technology.
Many analysts believe that grid storage additionally could more than double this demand for Li-ion batteries and graphite in the same time frame. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) will account for a third of the global auto fleet by 2040, fueling exponential growth in demand for graphite production from 13,000 tons for finished anodes in 2015 to 852,000 tons a year in 2030, for electrified vehicles alone, notes eenews.europe.
“With the enormous forecasted growth and increasing adoption of EVs, and proliferation of grid storage applications, the lithium-ion battery market continues its strong growth trajectory,” says Syrah CEO Shaun Verner.
Cadenza will establish an "Office of the CTO" to lead knowledge exchange and deep technical partner and customer engagement, as well as support the processing plant in Louisiana. Syrah also will embed key personnel within Cadenza's international research, design and engineering team. Additionally, the combined team will develop Syrah's carbon materials using a natural graphite base.
BCC Research's new analysis on global graphite markets notes that Balama is Syrah's flagship project. The report says Syrah plans to build a 20 kTPA plant in Louisiana with permits for 60 kTPA capacity, and then to provide the material to Hairong Morgan in China for the coating process.
The global market for graphite, which reached $12.5 billion in 2016, should reach $18.2 billion in 2021 with a 7.7% CAGR from 2016-2021, forecasts BCC Research.