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Kibaran to build battery-grade graphite pilot plant in Germany

Raw mineral graphite

Kibaran Resources plans to build a graphite plant in Germany which will process output from its Tanzanian prospect, to meet Asian battery materials demand

Kibaran Resources has completed a feasibility study on downstream processing of graphite from its Epanko Graphite Project in Tanzania. The study found that production of battery-grade graphite using the company’s purification technology could be carried out at low costs and environmentally friendly. Kibaran now intends to establish a pilot plant in Germany which will be expanded to commercial scale production for the supply of battery materials to customers in Europe and Asia.

According to the study, initial investment in the project would be US$66 million. Kibaran managing director Andrew Spinks commented: “Kibaran is now positioned to commercialise its battery graphite processing plans, commencing with a downstream processing pilot plant early next year and I look forward to updating our shareholders as we progress with this exciting addition to our graphite business.”

The feasibility study began in early 2017 and sought to evaluate the potential production of battery-grade graphite to meet increasing demand for lithium-ion batteries from the automobile and renewable energy sectors. In particular, the company says, the objective was to identify a non-hydrofluoric acid processing technology to address demand for more environmentally friendly products.

Having identified and refined such a purification technology – now proprietary IP – Kibaran now intends to accelerate the commercialisation of production during 2018, and build a modular pilot plant with an initial capability of producing 600 tonnes per year of unpurified battery-grade graphite by the end of 2018.

The pilot plant will then be used in the ramp-up of throughput rates to 20,000 tonnes per year.

“Initial testing has confirmed that battery graphite products produced using this new purification technology meet the specifications required by leading battery anode manufacturers and the elimination of hydrofluoric acid (which is currently used extensively by battery graphite producers) has attracted strong interest from a range of potential customers,” the company reported.

Following feedback during a visit to Japan, Korea and China in September, Kibaran says it has also upgraded its demand forecasts and increased the planned production rate of battery graphite four-fold to reach 20,000 tpy over the next three years as Japanese and Korean demand growth alone is now expected to be 300-400% by 2020, reaching approximately 120,000 tonnes per annum by 2025.

Based on these discussions with prospective customers, the Company is targeting future battery graphite production sufficient to supply 30% of this ex-China demand. Domestic demand from within China is expected to double over the next twelve months and will be a further catalyst for global demand and price growth.

Prices for battery graphite products have increased significantly during 2017, with recent pricing for standard grade graphite increasing from US$2,300/tonne to US$3,500/tonne. Kibaran has adopted a conservative long-term pricing model based on discussions with anode and battery manufacturers in Asia and an assessment of various global forecasts for energy, electric battery and electric vehicle growth rates over the next 10-20 years.

The outlook for battery graphite demand is very positive, it notes, and further price increases are expected to be supported by a number of key developments:

  • Chinese battery anode manufacturers doubling installed capacity in 2018.
  • A restriction in supply due to increasing environmental pressure on producers in China.
  • Limited availability of high quality battery grade graphite to satisfy customer requirements for increasingly stringent product specifications.
  • Increased pressure to reduce the use of existing hydrofluoric acid purification processes
Kibaran test site with samples. Source: Kibaran Resources
Kibaran test site with samples. Source: Kibaran Resources

New facility in Germany

The first phase of development will see the establishment of a pilot plant in Germany in early 2018 for the purposes of conducting further testwork on product qualities, refining the purification technology and completing customer pre-qualification processes. The pilot plant will allow expansion of production rates to 600 tpy to enable initial commercial sales of unpurified battery (spherical) graphite.

The second phase will see Construction of a full commercial-scale operation in 2019, with production and sale of up to 5,000 tpy ramping-up over several years to reach 20,000 tpy.

The Company expects to be able to provide further details on its 2018 commercialisation plans in coming weeks.

Source: Kibaran Resources

 

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