LONDON, May 10, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Needle coke and graphite electrode availability has been under pressure since 2017 following substantial financially- and environmentally-driven capacity closures, particularly in China. As a result, prices for both materials rose sharply and are expected to remain structurally high, at least in the medium term.
Following extensive primary research, involving interviews with major needle coke producers and consumers, CRU has uncovered new insights into the changing use of needle coke.
The use of needle coke in graphite electrodes is changing.
The amount (and quality) of needle coke used in the manufacture of graphite electrodes depends upon the electrode grade and diameter required. The key properties of needle coke are resistivity and the coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE).
Typically, ultra-high power (UHP) electrodes and the connecting pins contain a high proportion (>95%) of needle coke, as this is necessary for high charge transmission for melting scrap in electric arc furnace (EAF) steel production. These electrodes have the lowest resistivity and CTE.
High power (HP) electrodes use significantly less needle coke (20-30%) as the quality of the electrode is less critical in their use in secondary steelmaking in ladle furnaces, for example, with electrodes used solely for reheating molten steel. The remaining input is petroleum coke3, a lower quality coke product.
In recent years, the average proportion of needle coke in electrode production has fallen in China –Producers have responded to supply shortages and the rapid increase in needle coke prices by substituting in petroleum coke.
This has implications for the quality of graphite electrodes being produced in China and long term demand.
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