Syrah believes that further downstream processing of graphite concentrate presents a major potential opportunity to accrue additional value for shareholders. Coated spherical graphite is a high value, processed graphite product which is used to manufacture anodes for lithium (Li) ion batteries. As a result of increasing global demand from electric vehicle and grid storage applications, the Li-ion battery market is expected to see significant growth over the medium term.
Spherical graphite production process
In order to maximise production yields, -100 US mesh natural graphite is the optimal material to use as feed stock in the spherical graphite production process. Typically, two to three tonnes of feed stock is required to produce one tonne of spherical graphite.
Initially, -100 US mesh natural graphite is milled to produce spherules before being chemically purified to over 99.95% carbon to produce uncoated spherical graphite. It is then coated with another layer of carbon using proprietary technology to produced coated spherical graphite. Approximately one kilogram of coated spherical graphite is required to produce 1KWh of energy from a Li-ion battery.
As part of the spherical graphite production process, natural graphite recarburisers will also be produced as a by-product. Natural graphite recarburisers are high quality carbon additives that are used in the steel making and iron casting industries, and provides an opportunity to displace lower quality recarburisers (e.g. petroleum coke).
Natural graphite recarburisers are produced by briquetting the graphite shavings from the spherical graphite milling process and a binder.
Trial Balama recarburiser briquettes
Purified, coated Balama spherical graphite (lithium ion battery grade)
During November 2014, Syrah’s spherical graphite plant successfully produced battery grade uncoated spherical graphite using -100 US mesh graphite. This was followed by the successful coating of Balama spherical graphite by Morgan AM&T Hairong Co., Ltd (Morgan Hairong) in January 2015. Morgan Hairong is the second largest coated spherical graphite producer in China, with customers that include the largest and fastest growing battery producers in the country.
In November 2015, a 20 year licensing agreement was finalised with Morgan Hairong that grants Syrah exclusive rights to use their proprietary spherical graphite coating technology globally (excluding China). This gives Syrah with the ability to operate an integrated supply chain from mine to battery anode quality material and provides the Company with a competitive advantage in its spherical graphite development.