Graphite electrode refers to a kind of resistant material made of petroleum coke and needle coke as raw materials, coal tar pitch as binder, through raw material calcination, crushing and grinding, batching, kneading, molding, roasting, impregnation, graphitization and mechanical processing. High-temperature graphite conductive material, called artificial graphite electrode (referred to as graphite electrode), is different from natural graphite electrode prepared by using natural graphite as raw material.
Since 2022, the prices of needle coke and petroleum coke, the upstream raw materials of graphite electrodes, have been raised several times. As of April 28, the price of low-sulfur petroleum coke has generally increased by 2700-3680 yuan / ton compared with the beginning of the year, with a comprehensive increase of about 57.18%. Since last year, affected by the booming anode material market, anode material enterprises have a large demand for graphitization processing and graphite crucibles, and some graphite electrode enterprises have switched to anode graphitization and anode crucibles under the influence of profits, resulting in the graphitization and roasting process of the graphite electrode market. OEM resources are tight, and the cost of graphite electrode graphitization increases.
Since October last year, due to the environmental protection production restrictions in autumn and winter and the impact of the epidemic, the start of the graphite electrode market has continued to be limited. As of the end of March, the overall operating rate of the graphite electrode market was about 50%. Some small and medium-sized graphite electrode enterprises have insufficient production power under the dual pressure of high cost and weak downstream demand. At the same time, in the first quarter, China’s imported needle coke decreased by about 70% year-on-year, and the overall production of the graphite electrode market was insufficient.
Graphite electrode material is an important material for electric furnace steelmaking. Graphite used as electrode material for steelmaking accounts for about 70% to 80% of the total amount of graphite electrodes in China. Since electric furnace steelmaking is more environmentally friendly than blast furnace steelmaking, in recent years, the policy has mainly shifted to electric furnace steelmaking. In 2021, my country’s electric furnace steel will account for 15% of the total crude steel output, an increase of 5 percentage points from 2020. The increase in the proportion of electric furnace steel drives the demand for graphite electrodes. In the context of carbon neutrality, the proportion of electric furnace steel may increase rapidly.