Demand for large-scale electricity storage a catalyst for vanadium market interest

VanadiumCorp Resource Inc. (TSXV: VRB) (“VanadiumCorp”) has finally signed the partnership agreement with Electrochem Technologies and Materials Inc. The deal was originally announced on February 9th, 2017 via memorandum of understanding to collaborate on metallurgical and electrochemical technologies to produce vanadium electrolyte (VE) directly from VTM (Vanadiferous Titaniferous Magnetite) concentrate. The news comes shortly after the companies announced positive phase II testing results.

The original deal outlined a 50/50 agreement aimed at developing and licensing of the VanadiumCorp-Electrochem chemical processing technology, which allows vanadyl sulfate to be separated from VTM with relative ease. Current primary production of vanadium leaves behind an average of 99% of VTM already concentrated at the mine as residual calcine waste, but the patent pending chemical technology allows for the dissolution of 95%+ VTM directly into sulfuric acid before Electrochem’s patented electrowinning process allows for low carbon production of pure electrolytic iron; vanadium then remains in the pregnant solution as vanadyl sulfate that can be separated and purified into electrolyte for energy storage.

The emerging need for large-scale electricity storage makes vanadium redox-flow batteries (VRBs) a major potential future use of vanadium. Due to their large scale storage capacity, development of VRBs could prompt increases in the use of wind, solar, and other renewable power sources normally considered too intermittent to be feasible. Lithium-vanadium-phosphate batteries produce high voltages and high energy-to-weight ratios, which make them ideal for use in electric cars. Vanadium use in lithium batteries is expected to increase to 1,700 tonnes in 2017 from only 200 tonnes in 2012.The main advantages of VRBs is fourfold, namely;

  • their nearly unlimited capacity, which is made possible simply by using sequentially larger storage tanks,
  • their ability to be left completely discharged for long periods of time with no detrimental effects,
  • the ease of recharging them by replacing the electrolyte if no power source is available to recharge it,
  • and their ability to withstand permanent damage if the electrolytes are accidentally mixed.

As part of the second phase of testing, the companies demonstrated efficient processing of a plethora of feedstocks, with 95% of the material being recovered in the case of magnetite. A variety of slags, calcine and magnetite were tested that related industries either cannot currently process efficiently or avoid entirely due to the significant release of greenhouse gases.Recovery of vanadium as vanadyl sulfate used a precursor for the preparation of vanadium electrolyte (VE) was also successful, as was demonstrating the full potential of the VanadiumCorp-Electrochem chemical technology for primary production and monetization of waste materials. Titania and silica were also recovered as value added byproducts with good marketable values.Crucially, vanadium, along with titanium and 21 other materials, have just been included in the first comprehensive update on the US mineral resource landscape since the 1973 Oil Crisis. USGS Professional Report 1802 recognizes 23 minerals as critical to “national economy and national security”; the report also appears to promote VRBs as a preferable option for mass energy storage just as VanadiumCorp is coming close to perfecting its electrolyte production process.The company’s stock has increased in value by 200% over the last two years on repeated good news and is currently trading at CAD$0.12. If the use of VRBs grows as expected in the near future, expect to see production of VanadiumCorp branded electrolyte alongside.