Graphite Flows in the U.S. Insights into a Key Ingredient of Energy Transition

Jinrui Zhang, Chao Liang, Jennifer B. Dunn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Demand for graphite will grow with expanding use of lithium-ion batteries in the United States. Much graphite is imported, raising supply chain risks. It is therefore imperative to characterize graphite’s sources and sinks. Accordingly, we present the first material flow analysis for natural and synthetic graphite in the U.S. The analysis (for 2018) begins with processed graphite trade and includes graphite production, graphite product trade, manufacturing of end products, end product use, and waste management. It considers 11 end-use applications for graphite, two waste management stages, and three recycling pathways. In 2018, 354 thousand tonnes (kt) of processed graphite were consumed in the U.S., including 60 kt natural graphite and 294 kt synthetic graphite. 145 kt of graphite were traded. Refractories and foundries consumed 56% of natural graphite; 42% of synthetic graphite went into making graphite electrodes. Batteries accounted for 10 and 5% of natural and synthetic graphite consumption, respectively; 78% of total graphite used dissipated into the environment; 22% reached the waste disposal stage of which 71% was landfilled and 29% was recycled; and 59 kt of graphite accumulated in in-use stocks. Recycling more graphite and producing graphite from lignin would favorably influence today’s supply chain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3402-3414
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Feb 28 2023


  • lignin
  • lithium-ion batteries
  • material flow analysis
  • natural graphite
  • recycling
  • synthetic graphite

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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