The green revolution is in full swing.
With every passing day, more of us are moving away from non-renewable energy sources and towards renewable alternatives that are less harmful to the environment.
Nowhere is this shift more apparent than in the global car manufacturing industry as people shun petrol or diesel-powered cars in favour of electric vehicles (‘EVs’).
In fact, against a backdrop of falling prices, improving technology, and regulatory support, Deloitte estimates that global EV sales will reach some 31.1 million by 2030, from just 2.5 million in 2020.
Critically, as demand for these sustainable vehicles grows, so too does that for the materials used to make them.
As this unfolds, the companies involved in the mining and production of these materials stand to be among the biggest beneficiaries.
One such firm is Tirupati Graphite (LSE:TGR), which mines graphite, a key component of most lithium-ion batteries, the most common type of battery used in EVs.
And with £10 million in the bank following a recent, oversubscribed placing, the company has big expansion plans.
The firm’s chief of corporate and business development, Puruvi Poddar, recently took the time out to walk Mining Maven through why she believes the business is positioned for optimal growth as the EV revolution continues to unfold.
As she explained, “Graphite and graphene have spent many years in the space of green technologies and green materials. The number of applications that these two materials have in green new technologies is massive.”
Indeed, of all the battery minerals, graphite needs the largest increase in production to meet growing demand.
New heights of production
While Tirupati’s first primary mining and processing plant in Madagascar, Sahamamy, produced 3,000 tonne per annum (“tpa”) high-quality flake graphite, its second plant, Vatomina, is set to be commissioned in the current quarter of 2021, taking total capacity to 12,000 tpa. And the company is not stopping there, either, with plans in place for an impressive 84,000 tpa by 2024.
The target is part of what Poddar called “a modular development strategy” across the two projects, “in sync with the demand growth” for graphite.
To this end, in April, Tirupati completed a £10 million oversubscribed placing. As Poddar explained, this was in response to “markets and the demand for our products”.
The funds will accelerate the next stage of Tirupati’s plans, including the expansion plans mentioned above as well as the redevelopment of hydropower facilities in Madagascar, which will meet the power requirements for the full 30,000 tpa requirements. After that, the firm will be even greener.
“As a company, we are very focused on green materials and clean processes; these drive our values,” said Poddar.
Materials of the future
Moreover, Tirupati will invest in the second stage of its downstream process, involving speciality graphite. This includes producing the over 99% purity spherical graphite that goes into lithium-ion batteries and exploring and developing new specialty green technologies and materials.
“Long term, the company’s value lies in products and material development, even if biggest revenue right now is from mining,” Poddar said, adding that “Tirupati sees itself as more of a technology development and materials development company in the longer run”.
This is where Tirupati’s graphene comes in, a less well-known material with some amazing properties. As the thinnest material available, graphene is two-dimensional, made of a single layer of graphite arranged in a honeycomb structure. And yet, graphene is astonishingly strong, with 200 times the strength of steel. On top of all this, graphene is also an impressive electricity and heat conductor.
Tirupati makes Few Layer Graphene (“FLG”), containing two to five layers of graphene, which has applications in coatings, multiple battery parts, and composite materials. In fact, one of Tirupati’s most recent creations is a graphene-aluminium composite. This ground-breaking material’s thermal conductivity is higher than copper and more than twice that of aluminium, while micro-hardness is more three times aluminium’s and 50% higher than copper.
The composite’s electrical conductivity is more than 150% that of aluminium and more than 95% that of copper. Tirupati is now planning to increase the material’s electrical conductivity with further optimisation.
Currently, copper is the preferred material when it comes to electrical and thermal conductivity, but it is more than three times denser than aluminium and costs around three times as much. This graphene aluminium composite, then, could be an excellent alternative since it is so much lighter with excellent conductivity.
Applications for the material include aerospace and satellites, as well as wires and cables in EV motors. Notably, a leading FTSE 100 engineering company is exploring potentially using the composite in power and propulsion systems to cut down on weight. This would shrink carbon footprint and emissions.
Importantly, Tirupati’s graphene itself is also made in an environmentally friendly way.
As Poddar explained, the most common method for making graphene right now is “a very stringent chemical process that leaves a chemical footprint on the material and is not very cost efficient”.
Meanwhile, Tirupati’s method is “scalable and cost-efficient” without using chemicals.
The next stage for this part of the business involves setting up a commercial graphene production facility. Like the graphite expansion, this will also use funds from the £10 million placing.
Graphite mining and graphene production are an encouraging combination in the green technology space. While the revolution needs more graphite for the batteries that power electrification, it also needs new materials to help push green technologies even further forward.
Year-to-date, the firm’s shares are already up over 100%, and interest is building as more and more investors take notice.
There are plenty of catalysts for further rises…
To start, there is the second graphite primary mining and processing plant, about to be commissioned and quadrupling production. Then, there is the third plant, which will open far sooner than planned thanks to recent investment.
On top of that, the Company’s graphene composite has caught the eye of a FTSE 100 firm; a contract with a company of this ilk could certainly drive up the share price further, as would other contracts if more companies take notice and seek out the material themselves.
With foundations in graphite mining, and innovative potential in speciality graphite and graphene, Tirupati is solidly positioned for the future.
Author: Anna Farley
The Author does not hold any position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.
MiningMaven Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, does not own a position in the stock(s) and/or financial instrument(s) mentioned in the piece.
MiningMaven Ltd, the owner of MiningMaven.com, has not been paid for the production of this piece by the company or companies mentioned above.
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