Since 2022, Russia-Ukraine geopolitical conflicts have intensified, and global energy prices have risen sharply, with international natural gas prices hitting historic highs. As the most important transitional energy source in the transition from fossil energy to non-fossil energy, the share of natural gas in primary energy has increased from 14.6% in 1965 to 24.7% in 2020. The global gas price indices showed a unilateral downward trend from 2018, bottomed out in 2020, and remained low for a long time. However, since July 2020, the global gas prices have gradually fluctuated upward, and the impact of geopolitical events made the Dutch TTF gas price even hit record highs repeatedly.
An analyst of a securities company believes that the core catalyst of this round of global gas market lies in the lack of investment in upstream oil and gas resources caused by long-term low prices. Since 2020, although the epidemic has led to a decline in demand, the decline in supply has been faster, resulting in a large inventory consumption. In 2021, demand will recover faster than supply (the supply-side is less sensitive to prices, which will be reflected in investment).
As the world's two largest gas natural graphite are also expected to change significantly.
Natural graphite is mainly used in refractory materials, batteries, steelmaking, expanded graphite, brake pads, casting surfaces, and lubricants.
The use of graphite as a refractory (heat-resistant) material began before 1900 for holding molten metal graphite crucible; This is a small fraction of what refractories are made today. In the mid-1980s, carbon-magnesium bricks became important, followed later by alumina-graphite shapes. As of 2017, the order of importance is alumina-graphite profiles, carbon-magnesite bricks, Monolithics (a mixture of spray-patching and pounding), and then crucible.
The crucible began to use very large sheets of graphite, whereas carbon-magnesia bricks did not require such large sheets of graphite; For these and other purposes, sheet sizes are now required with greater flexibility, and amorphous graphite is no longer limited to low-end refractories. Alumina-graphite profiles are used as continuous castings, such as nozzles and grooves, to transport molten steel from ladles to molds, and carbon-magnesium bricks are lined up in converter and electric-arc furnace to withstand extreme temperatures. Graphite blocks are also used as components in blast furnace linings where the high thermal conductivity of graphite is essential to ensure adequate cooling of the furnace bottom and chamber. High purity monolithic tiles are usually used as continuous furnace linings rather than carbon magnesia bricks.
The use of graphite in batteries has increased since the 1970s. Natural and synthetic graphite is used as an anode material for constructing electrodes in major battery technologies.
The demand for batteries, mainly nickel-metal hydride, and lithium-ion batteries, led to an increase in demand for graphite in the late 1980s and early 1990s - an increase driven by portable electronic devices, such as portable CD players and power tools. Laptops, phones, tablets, and smartphones have increased the need for batteries. Electric vehicle batteries are expected to increase graphite demand. The lithium-ion battery in the all-electric Nissan Leaf, for example, contains nearly 40 kilograms of graphite.
Radioactive graphite from old nuclear reactors is being studied as fuel. Nuclear diamond batteries have the potential to provide long-term energy for electronics and the Internet of things.
Natural graphite in steelmaking is mainly used to improve the carbon content in molten steel. It can also be used to lubricate molds used to extrude hot steel. Carbon additives face competitive prices from alternatives such as synthetic graphite powder, petroleum coke, and other forms of carbon. Carburizing agent is added to raise the carbon content of the steel to a specified level.
Natural amorphous and fine-scale graphite is used in brake linings or shoes for heavier (non-automotive) vehicles and has become important as a replacement for asbestos is needed. This use has been important for a long time, but non-asbestos organic (NAO) ingredients are beginning to reduce graphite's market share.
Casting coat and lubricant
The mold cleaning liquid for casting is a water-based amorphous or fine-scale graphite coating. Paint the inside of the mold with it and let it dry, leaving a fine coating of graphite that eases the separation of the casting as the hot metal cools. Graphite lubricants are special products used at very high or very low temperatures, used as lubricants for forging dies, anti-stuck agents, gear lubricants for mining machinery, and lubricating locks. There is a great need for low grain graphite and even better non-grain graphite (ultra-high purity). It can be used as a dry powder in water or oil, or as colloidal graphite (a permanent suspension in liquid).
Since the 16th century, all pencils have been made from graphite naturally found in Britain, but the most common modern lead is a mixture of powdered graphite and clay.
Natural graphite has found use in zinc-carbon batteries, motor brushes, and a variety of specialized applications. Graphite of different hardness or softness produces different qualities and tones when used as an artistic medium. Railroads often mix graphite powder with waste oil or flaxseed oil to form a heat-resistant coating for exposed parts of steam locomotive boilers, such as the lower part of a smoke box or firebox.
Expanded graphite is made by dipping natural flake graphite into a bath of chromic acid, followed by concentrated sulfuric acid, which forces the lattice planes apart and causes the graphite to expand. Expanded graphite can be used in the manufacture of graphite foil or directly used as the "hot top" compounds, to isolate in the molten metal ladle or hot ingot and reduce heat loss, or used as a fire door installed in or around the fire damper in the sheet metal plate plastic pipes around the lantern ring (in the fire, the graphite expansion and carbonized in the infiltration and spread of resistance to fire), or high-performance gasket materials used in the manufacture of high-temperature use. After making graphite foil, the foil is machined and assembled into bipolar fuel cells. Aluminum foil is made into radiators for laptops, keeping them cool while reducing weight, and is made into foil laminates that can be used as valve fillers or made into gaskets. Old-fashioned fillers are now a minor member of the group: fine scales of graphite in oil or grease, used for applications requiring heat resistance.
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The development of the Russia-Ukraine conflict will continue to dominate the commodity prices such as the natural graphite in the future. If the conflict eases or cools, Russia and Ukraine go back to negotiate, commodity prices would fall. However, if the situation between Russia and Ukraine deteriorates further, or evolves into a full-scale war, the price of the natural graphite is predicted to see further improvement over the coming days.
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