The World Steel Association stated that global crude steel production reached 1,880.1 million tons (Mt) in 2019. As per this organization, 1,461.2 Mt of crude steel was produced from January 2021–September 2021. The surge in steel production can be attributed to the increasing use of steel products in several end-use industries, such as automotive, construction, oil and gas, and manufacturing. Steel producers use a considerable volume of graphite in manufacturing processes, due to its beneficial properties such as high durability, excellent corrosion resistance, and exceptional strength at extreme temperatures.
In recent years, power-generating companies have been shifting from conventional reactors to pebble-bed reactors to produce electricity through uranium fuel, owing to which graphite production has surged significantly. A 1,000-megawatt (MW) pebble-bed nuclear reactor requires around 3,000 tons of graphite in the initial phase and consumes approximately 600–1,000 tons of graphite annually. Additionally, pebble-bed reactors use helium gas, instead of water, to cool the spherical fuel elements. Thus, the eco-friendly characteristic of such reactors will accelerate their adoption rate, owing to which the consumption of graphite will escalate exponentially.
The electronics, metallurgy, and automotive industries are the primary end users of natural graphite and synthetic graphite, such as carbon fiber and graphite electrodes. In the recent past, synthetic graphite was consumed in higher quantities, due to its largescale usage in the production of electrodes for electric arc furnaces, which are used in the manufacturing of metallic goods. In comparison to natural graphite, synthetic graphite can withstand higher temperatures and exhibit superior thermal shock resistance and thermal expansion.
Currently, the needs of end-use industries are being met by GrafTech International Ltd., Syrah Resources Ltd., Qingdao Guangxing Electronic Materials Co. Ltd., Tokai Carbon Co. Ltd., SGL Carbon SE, Graphite India Ltd., Shanshan Corporation, Fangda Carbon New Material Technology Co. Ltd., HEG Ltd., and Showa Denko K.K. Nowadays, these companies are focusing on mergers and acquisitions to cater to a greater number of end users. For example, in December 2019, Showa Denko K.K. acquired Hitachi Chemical Ltd. for $8.8 billion to emerge as one of the leading suppliers of graphite to manufactures of Li-ion batteries.