Aspiring Australian upstream vanadium flow battery players move forward

Design drawing of a residential VRFB system by the Australian subsidiary of Vanadium VSUN Energy. Flow batteries, which have a lower energy density than lithium-ion, are generally expected to be found on a larger scale in other markets. Image: VSUN.

Ahead of an expected increase in demand for vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs) for stationary energy storage applications, two companies on either side of Australia have claimed milestones in their leveraging strategies. the market.

The Vecco Group, which is developing a vanadium mine project in Queensland, northeast Australia, has found a technology partner for what it claims to be the first vanadium electrolyte manufacturing plant in the commercial scale of the country. The company has partnered with C-Tech Innovation, a UK-based technology company that manufactures electrochemical equipment for the manufacture of vanadium electrolyte.

The facility in South East Queensland would have an annual production capacity of 2 million liters and would be supplied with high purity vanadium from the Vecco Group’s Debella project. Debella is located in a part of Queensland rich in mineral resources and already known for mining.

Vecco aims for initial production in 2023. The annual capacity of the new plant would be equivalent to around 30 MWh of VRFB electrolyte, but the company plans to increase this capacity to 300 MWh. It also signed a partnership with Chinese company Shanghai Electric for the construction of the plant, Vecco said in April, with Shanghai Electric signing a 10 MWh off-take agreement.

C-Tech claimed to have developed a direct one-step electrochemical reduction process that is a cleaner alternative to conventional manufacturing, without the need for chemical reducing agents.

In a recent interview, Maria Skyllas-Kazacos, professor emeritus at the University of New South Wales and one of the original inventors of the vanadium flux battery, said that the electrolyte is by far the most expensive part of the system.

Producers targeting different levels of vertical integration

Building production capacity close to local demand is likely to be an important cost-cutting factor, while vertical integration offers vanadium companies the best opportunity to capture the maximum value of their materials.

For example, a 200 MWh vanadium electrolyte plant is being built in South Africa by Bushveld Minerals, one of the four major producers of vanadium already in operation in the world today (around 80% of the vanadium used by industries like aerospace and construction is not mined out of the ground but rather comes as a by-product of steel production).

Bushveld CEO Fortune Mojapelo told this site that with South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) targeting 10,000 MW of renewable energy capacity and 2,000 MW of battery storage, as well As many industrial entities that need reliable energy and seek to self-produce with energy, it is important to intervene early where markets are developing.

Similarly, in Western Australia, a vanadium mine project is being developed by Australian Vanadium (AVL), which also has a subsidiary marketing VRFB systems and recently signed a partnership to license the technology from production of vanadium electrolyte from US Vanadium.

AVL said this week that test work at its Australian mine site on the Vanadium Project showed higher than expected vanadium and iron concentrate levels. Earlier this month, three VRFBs of 5 kW / 30 kWh each were shipped from the company’s manufacturing partner, V-Flow Tech, in Singapore, for installation by VSUN Energy.

Australian Vanadium also received a grant of AU $ 3.9 million (US $ 2.83 million) earlier this year to accelerate its manufacturing capabilities from the Australian Government’s Modern Manufacturing Initiative.

US Vanadium itself recently said it will produce more than 2 million liters of electrolyte per year at its Arkansas plant in response to demand. The company is doing this in partnership with Austrian flow battery manufacturer CellCube, which recently ordered 580,000 liters of electrolyte from US Vanadium to equip an 8 MWh micro-grid project for an anonymous industrial customer in the United States.


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