VanadiumCorp sets sights on Battery Revolution
A number of operations worldwide are currently striving to achieve primary vanadium supply in order to, in part, meet the needs of the growing market for vanadium redox flow batteries (VRBs). The technology enables vastly greater energy capacity for industrial and grid storage applications over conventional lithium ion setups, yet the electrolytic solution on which they rely is prohibitively expensive to produce, currently comprising almost half of the cost of a battery unit. The world is in waiting for a method of mass-producing this vanadium-bearing liquid as the need for increasingly large grid energy storage systems continues to climb.
VanadiumCorp Resource Inc. (TSXV: VRB) (“VanadiumCorp”) is working on a proprietary breakthrough process which can manufacture vanadium electrolyte solutions with unprecedented efficiency and cost-effectiveness, and with 100% ownership of two of the purest vanadium deposits in the world, the company potentially represents a complete solution, even having the inventor of the VRB, Dr. Maria Skyllas-Kazacos, on the team serving as a scientific advisor. Dr. Skyllas-Kazacos filed the first patent for an all-vanadium battery technology back in 1986, so her involvement in the project inspires great confidence.
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VanadiumCorp is working with industrial electrochemists, Electrochem Technologies & Materials Inc, to finalise a process that converts the primary concentrate, vanadiferous titanomagnetite (VTM), into a useable vanadium electrolyte (VE) without the need for slagging, smelting or roasting. This significantly lowers the cost of VE production as well as entirely eliminating greenhouse gas emissions due to the fact that the process is electrochemical. Furthermore, since the project is located in Quebec, it has access to cheap Canadian hydroelectricity to boot.
The company has the ability to produce a great VTM product from its two mining operations currently in development, and is already issuing samples of its VE solution to prospective customers. In fact, the flagship resource, Lac Dore, is a former Quebec government project which managed to achieve a 99.9% pure VE solution via a pilot plant operation in 2002; the groundwork has already been laid, and VanadiumCorp plans to construct a pilot plant of its own this year, which would be a major step towards full commercialisation of the company’s pioneering technology.
China produces around 58% of the global vanadium supply, but this is mostly as a co-product from Chinese steel mills. If VRB technologies are to become popular, the world will need many additional producers to come online, and while some primary sources currently exist, none have so far managed to create an economical method of mass-producing battery-grade vanadium electrolytic solutions. VanadiumCorp is the leading entity in this regard, having a real chance of gaining a stranglehold on an emerging market.
Demand for vanadium in traditional applications is projected to grow at a CAGR of 6% per year through 2020 as a result of growth rates in global steel production and ongoing substitution of manganese steel with vanadium bearing steels, but energy storage applications have the potential to increase global vanadium consumption by more than 27,000 MTV per year, or more than 30% of the current market, by 2020.
At the same time as supply deficits are beginning to emerge, the number of uses for vanadium continues to climb. No doubt the market will respond and fill the gaps, but VanadiumCorp may be the only company able to provide the solution necessary to make all-vanadium battery technologies a reality. Keep an eye on this team, they may be quite disruptive.
Lara Smith has spent over a decade covering commodity markets. She started her career as a buyside analyst in South Africa where she covered soft ... <Read more about Lara Smith>