S&P feature | Graphite emissions fuel search for solutions along EV supply chain



    Robert Pell21st Apr 2022 14:34

    Minviro's founder and CEO Robert Pell talked with S&P Global Market Intelligence, contributing to this article.

    The transition to electric vehicles (EVs) is in full swing, driven by a global commitment to sustainable transportation. Yet, the spotlight is now on an unexpected protagonist - graphite. This essential component of EV batteries, particularly its significant carbon footprint, has raised critical environmental questions.

    As revealed in the article, the production of graphite for the estimated 9.5 million EVs in 2022 could lead to roughly 11.17 billion kilograms of CO2 equivalent emissions. To frame this staggering figure: it's the emissions equivalent of driving 2.5 million traditional gasoline vehicles for a year.

    While EVs continue to be championed as a greener alternative to traditional cars, the rapid rise in graphite demand is undeniable. Projections suggest an increase from 140,000 tonnes in 2020 to an overwhelming 3.5 million tonnes by 2040. Such numbers have thrust graphite, especially its energy-intensive synthetic variant, into an unprecedented limelight.

    We at Minviro, having expertise in conducting life cycle assessments for minerals, are acutely aware of the challenges posed by graphite production. Our co-founder and CEO, Robert Pell, was quoted in the article emphasizing the energy-intense nature of both natural and synthetic graphite production processes. Robert’s insights highlight the critical oversight in historical assessments of graphite's environmental impact.

    A significant portion of global graphite production is concentrated in China, which has economical energy mainly due to its coal dominance. Robert's comments in the article shed light on the inherent contradiction: the primary material for the low-carbon transition is sourced from a high-carbon footprint process.

    According to our recent data, the carbon impact of both synthetic and natural graphite production in China is alarmingly high. Approximately 17 kilograms of CO2 equivalent emissions are produced for every kilogram of graphite, whether synthetic or natural.

    The article also underscored the industry's pivot towards natural graphite, which can be less energy-intensive. With this shift, several companies are exploring innovative techniques to reduce their carbon footprints. Northern Graphite Corp’s Bissett Creek mine in Ontario, for example, shows promising results in decreasing the global warming potential of graphite production, as detailed in a life cycle assessment we conducted.

    In closing, while we were proud to have our insights featured in the article, the underlying message remains clear. The EV industry's commitment to sustainability necessitates a deeper look into its supply chain. Minviro remains at the forefront, offering expertise and championing sustainable practices for a genuinely green transportation future.

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