Imerys has announced plans to expand capacity for synthetic graphite at its Bodio plant in Switzerland, to meet rising demand from the lithium-ion battery sector in Asia, Europe and North America.
Imerys’ carbon business is headquartered in Bodio through Imerys Graphite & Carbon, whose operations include a natural graphite mine and plant in Canada, as well as the synthetic graphite manufacturing plant in Bodio. It also produces conductive carbon blacks, tailor-made graphite dispersions and silicon carbide.
The company says the “investment is the first of a series of capacity expansion projects the Group envisages to support and accompany the expected strong growth of the electric vehicle market worldwide.”
According to Roskill analysts, Imerys has been increasing its presence in the lithium-ion battery supply chain. In February 2017, it acquired the Japanese company Nippon Power Graphite (NPG), which owns anode material production capacity in Japan. The acquisition also gave Imerys ownership of NPG’s patented CVD coating technology for the production of coated anode materials.
Synthetic graphite is used, alongside natural graphite, as the major anode material in lithium-ion batteries. The lithium-ion battery sector is leading growth in graphite, with demand having rebounded strongly through H2 2020 – a result of the concentration of the supply chain in China, as well as being led by Chinese consumer growth.
The Chinese battery market has been boosted since April by an extension to electric vehicles subsidies through to 2022, in a bid to stimulate recovery.