The Circular Industries Hub organises the Circular Industries Talk every second Wednesday of the month. On Wednesday May 4, Irina Patrahau joined us as a guest speaker. Irina Patrahau is Strategic Analyst at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS). In her lecture, Irina talked about graphite as an example of critical mineral, in line with HCSS's latest publication. Here, we look back on the content of her talk.
Critical minerals for the energy transition: The case of graphite
Graphite is a critical mineral for governments in Europe and the United States, given its importance to the energy transition and high supply risk. Technologies that enable the decarbonization of transport and steel production, i.e., electric vehicles and electric arc furnaces, rely heavily on a consistent supply of high-quality graphite, leading to an exponential growth in the demand for graphite over the coming decades. There are two types of graphite: natural and synthetic graphite. Whilst natural graphite can be mined in multiple jurisdictions worldwide, the synthetic type has a narrower supply base. Due to its artificial origin and predictable consistency and characteristics, synthetic graphite has been preferred over natural graphite. Currently, 80% of the global supply of natural and synthetic graphite comes from China.
Technologies that enable the decarbonization of transport and steel production, i.e., electric vehicles and electric arc furnaces, rely heavily on a consistent supply of high-quality graphite, leading to an exponential growth in the demand for graphite over the coming decade.
Europe is facing three challenges in securing supplies of graphite. First, not all graphite has the right quality to fulfil demand, due to particularities of the natural vs synthetic graphite processing stages. Second, the production of both natural and synthetic graphite is at the moment expensive, energy-intensive and environmentally harmful. Third, China’s graphite monopoly is problematic not just from a geopolitical perspective, but also from a practical one: China itself will transition its economy to green energy and will need significant supplies.
The processing of natural graphite is becoming increasingly popular due to new and sustainable production processes and the potential to scale up in regions outside of China, which currently dominates the production and supply of processed graphite. Producing countries in Africa, the EU and the US are in a unique position to bring together their capital, knowledge and raw materials and set up a solid supply chain that meets environmental and social standards, and that secures the graphite supplies required for the energy transition. Government initiatives could incubate an eco-system that reduces investment risks, increase public acceptance of industrial processes, and scale processing capacity at home.
Curious about Irina Patrahau's talk?
The Circular Industries talks
The goal of the Circular Industries talks is to share knowledge across Leiden, Delft and Erasmus and to complement and deepen the knowledge already available within the Circular Industries Hub. The talks are organized on Wednesday morning from 10:00 to 11:00. The talks are online (Microsoft Teams). Next up in the CI Talks: Christian Hagelüken