Powering the Electric Vehicle Revolution

Graphite is a critical component used in the production of electric vehicles, an ever-expanding market, with strong forecasted growth for both the imminent and long-term future. It is estimated by Bloomberg New Energy Finance that electric vehicles (EV’s) will account for 28% of global new car sales by the year 2030, with that number surging to 55% by 2040. Industry giant China is offering massive government subsidies on electric vehicles, in an attempt to reduce on carbon emissions, as a means of curbing the damage caused by climate change. Similarly, electric buses are expected to dominate their market even more decisively, reaching an 84% global share by 2030.

Graphite is a critical commodity for the manufacture of EVs, used in the anodes of Lithium batteries. Although a lesser-known component in lithium-ion batteries, it is estimated, that by quantity 1000% – 2000% more graphite is used than Lithium, with Lithium only making up approximately 2% of the finished battery. In these increasingly popular batteries, graphite forms the negative electrode, known as an anode. Lithium ions are sent from the anode to the cathode through the electrolyte buffer separating them. Once the process is reversed, the result is an electric current that powers vehicles like the Tesla Model S. The advantages of using natural flake graphite as an electrode are its abundance and the material’s lengthy cycle life.

“Our cells should be called Nickel-Graphite…there is a little bit of lithium in there, but it’s like the salt on the salad”

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and Founder

The use of graphite as a component in rechargeable batteries is largely due to its versatility. At an atomic level, graphite is arranged in a honeycomb structure that affords it electrical conductivity — graphite being the only non-metal capable of this — and flexibility, making it perfectly suited for use in EVs.

However, not all graphite can be used as anodes with the predominant types of graphite being flake, amorphous, vein and synthetic. Under a microscope, flake graphite appears flat and plate like, with either angular or hexagonal edges and can then be further subcategorised into small, medium, large or jumbo flake. Importantly it is high purity flake, and the correct grade graphite that is required in battery development, that is, low quality graphite cannot be used in this application.

New Energy Minerals has proven that the Caula Graphite-Vanadium project has exceptional quality graphite with more than 63% of cumulative proportion in large to super jumbo flakes sizes (>180μm) and excellent concentrate grades of up to 98.7% TGC. With major car makers committed to go all electric, New Energy Minerals is well aligned to capitalise on this ever-growing market.

Graphite ProductSize Fraction (μm)Fresh SampleTransitional SampleOxide Sample
Mass (%)TGC (%)Mass (%)TGC (%)Mass (%)TGC (%)
Super Jumbo>5005.497.586.598.110.996.81
Jumbo300 to 50026.197.822598.6610.697.64
Large180 to 30036.497.4336.698.6434.797.7
Medium150 to 1809.596.9610.398.4614.897.76
Small75 to 15018.496.8520.598.4234.797.78
Fines4.288.61.197.714.296.12
Combined Concentrate10096.9910098.5210097.67
Sources:
Benchmark Intelligence
Bloomberg NEF
Investing News

Enabling a Renewable Future

Vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFB’s) are the most efficient battery technology for utility scale renewable energy storage for both wind and solar. VRFB’s are fully containerised, non-flammable, compact and reusable over semi-infinite cycles. The majority of batteries use two chemicals that change valence (or charge / redox state) in response to electron flow, that convert chemical energy to electrical energy, and vice versa.

With wind & solar forecasted to surge to 50% of energy generation by 2050, the future electricity system will reorganise around cheap renewables made possible by lithium and vanadium batteries. With multiple benefits for utility scale energy storage, VRFB’s are favoured over other batteries including lithium ion and are forecasted to take up to 25% of the ESS (Energy Storage Systems) market by 2028. Since there is no need for heat resistance, the battery body has an extended lifetime and the design can withstand for over 20 years. In addition to these benefits, compared with other batteries, which are limited in terms of the number of charge and discharge, the number of charge and discharge for VRFB’s is unlimited, and its electrolyte can be used for the long-term, hence, cost reduction after 20 years is possible. The electrolyte is non-flammable and the battery operates in room temperature, hence there are no tendency of ignition or explosion.

“We see $548 billion being invested in battery capacity by 2050, two thirds of that at the grid level and one third installed behind-the-meter by households and businesses”

Bloomberg NEF

The possibility of creating a vanadium flow battery was explored variously by Pissoort in the 1930s, NASA researchers in the 1970s, and Pellegri and Spaziante in the 1970s, however none of them were successful in demonstrating the technology. The first successful demonstration of the all-vanadium redox flow battery which employed vanadium in a solution of sulfuric acid in each half was by Maria Skyllas-Kazacos at the University of New South Wales in the 1980s. Her design used sulfuric acid electrolytes, and was patented by the University in Australia in 1986.

As the technology is dependent on high purity ~99%+ Vanadium Pentoxide, New Energy Minerals’ Caula project is positioned as a primary global Vanadium supply source.

Sources:
P. A. Pissoort, in FR Patent 754065 (1933)
A. Pelligri and P. M. Spaziante, in GB Patent 2030349 (1978), to Oronzio de Nori Impianti Elettrochimici S.p.A.
M. Rychcik and M. Skyllas-Kazacos, J. Power Sources, 22 (1988) 59–67

Advancing Aerospace Alloys

Vanadium-rich, low-density alloys result in high strength, lightweight fabrications, essential to the aerospace industry. Similarly, vanadium is a vital material for gas turbines and airframes in traditional jet construction, as well as high strength alloys used in spacecraft.

A titanium alloy containing 4% vanadium and 6% aluminium (Ti6Al4V) has been used extensively for blades, discs and casings of the compressors in many designs of the aero-engine gas turbine. The heat treatment made possible by the vanadium and aluminium results in high strength alloys that maintain at temperatures of up to 545°C, which has enabled the alloy to be used for highly stressed components of airframes and undercarriages.

"Jeff Bezos has been pouring nearly $1 billion a year from his Amazon holdings into Blue Origin, the rocket-builder he founded."

CNBC

The development of new titanium alloys continues with the Vanadium component ranging from 8, 10 to 15%, which results in even higher strengths and the potential to make important contributions to weight reduction and fuel efficiency in the aircraft of the future. Uses of these newly developed alloys are outlined below:

  • 8% vanadium alloys possess high strength and high flexibility, allowing titanium alloys to replace steel springs
  • 10% vanadium alloy in the form of heat-treated forgings is used in airframes, particularly for the support structures in undercarriages and has been successfully applied to the Boeing 777.
  • 15% vanadium alloy is produced as sheet with cold working properties and has the potential for air ducting in aircraft.

With a JORC Measured Resource of 22Mt @ 0.37% V2O5 (0.2% cut-off) for 81,600 tonnes contained V2O5, the Caula Project has the potential to meet the vanadium demand of these ever-expanding applications.

Sources:
http://vanitec.org/

Strengthening Construction

Vanadium

The construction sector is the largest consumer of steel products, and Vanadium plays an essential role in providing high strength, cost-effective solutions. Being the most widely used alloying element for strengthening steels employed in buildings and bridges, reinforcing bars used for buildings, tunnels and bridges, it is also added to bars for prestressed concrete structures and suspension ropes.

With the recent requirement to increase vanadium levels in construction metals within the developing world, Vanadium demand is set to increase significantly. As released in February 2018 with implementation by the 1st of November 2018, China revised steel rebar standards to limit the use of inferior strength steels in its booming construction industry. The new rebar standard, GB/T 1499.2-2018 released by the government, eliminates low strength Grade 2 (335MPa) rebar and authorizes 3 different high strength standards: Grade 3 (400MPa), Grade 4 (500MPa), and Grade 5 (600MPa).

As a result of these revised standards, global demand for vanadium is set to increase, with this development expected to add between 10,000t to 15,000t of vanadium demand, and signs of an increase in demand is already evident. Vanadium demand is conservatively forecasted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.6%, reaching 133,000t in 2025, and supply including all idle capacity and expansion of existing primary mines, predicted to grow at a CAGR of 3.7% to 111,000t in 2025. This strongly positions New Energy Minerals’ Caula Project to become a global vanadium supply source.

“We've got a raging fire here in terms of supply, and we are about to throw a bucket of fuel onto it. I expect the price to reach historical highs in the coming months”

Terry Perles, TPP Squared president

Strengthening Construction

Graphite

Graphite is a key material in the expandable graphite market, which is widely used in the next generation of fire-retardant material building materials. Driving even greater demand for this commodity, which is also vital to the electric vehicle market, the global construction industry is set to become a key consumer for this product.

With China forecasted to require a total of 40Mtpa of fire-retardant building materials per year, and 5% of this product being made of Graphite, this equates to 2 million tonnes of high quality large-flake graphite per year being consumed by the Chinese construction industry alone. To add context, it is estimated total global production of flake graphite in 2016 was approximately 860,000 tons with only a proportion of this material used to generate expandable graphite.

It is commonly understood that China’s coarse flake graphite reserves have largely diminished, and supply is also under threat by environmental restrictions forcing mine closures.
The Caula project has significant capacity to supply this market and exceptional flake size distribution with >63% of concentrates larger than 180 microns @ 97% to 98% C. Mustang has initiated further testing on its 180+ concentrates to assist with offtake discussions.

Sources:
https://www.miningreview.com/demand-expandable-graphite-driven-building-materials/
https://stockhead.com.au/resources/graphite-guide-why-fire-resistance-and-not-electric-cars-will-drive-these-stocks/