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Vanadium developer Yellow Rock Resources (ASX:YRR) has taken a key step in entering the high-tech battery market with the appointment of new expertise in the field.
Emeritus Professor Maria Skyllas-Kazacos of the University of NSW will now play a leading role in Yellow Rock’s program to establish vanadium electrolyte production from the company’s Gabanintha project in Western Australia for use in the rapidly emerging battery industry.
Skyllas-Kazacos will assist Yellow Rock to assess the global market for the vanadium electrolyte used in the batteries and to identify the optimum method of processing Gabanintha vanadium for this market.
She will also assist with Yellow Rock’s studies aimed at determining the extent to which the cost of manufacturing vanadium batteries could be reduced by using a mine-quality vanadium product.
The results of these studies will be included in a new scoping study on Gabanintha.
Skyllas-Kazacos played a key role in inventing the all-vanadium redox flow cell battery in 1985 and she has continued developing this technology at the UNSW.
Under her guidance, the UNSW installed a Gildemeister Cell Cube 130kWh vanadium flow battery on the campus earlier this year. The battery will be used to provide power to a university building in conjunction with solar energy and in teaching and battery research.
As the first major installation of a large vanadium redox battery in Australia, it can provide up to 30kW of power for more than four hours.
Although Gabanintha’s concept study was restricted to vanadium’s use in the steel industry, Yellow Rock is actively seeking to link the use of its products to the rise of this globally significant use Vanadium Battery technology.
As such, it has continued to advance its opportunities in the Vanadium Redox Battery (VRB) market by forming relationships with key players. The company has also formed a battery focused subsidiary, VSUN Pty Ltd, which will sell Vanadium Batteries on behalf of two European producers in the Australian Market.
Opportunities will focus on businesses and off-grid opportunities, but due to the scalability of VRBs, many other applications can be envisaged. These include applications such as domestic power, farm-production and Electric Vehicle charging stations.
The rapid acceleration in the development of renewable energy projects on a global scale is being accompanied by rapidly growing interest and need for grid storage technologies. The uptake of VRB technology along with other grid storage technologies could have a significant effect on the vanadium market as the use of V2O5 electrolyte is a large component (up to 50% of current cost) of the battery units.
The unique characteristics of VRBs, specifically their scalability, long lifespan cycles and the use of one battery element, make them a strong candidate to earn up to 30% of the growing energy storage market, which is expected to grow from a current 0.4GW to 40GW in just the next seven years.
The most recent development progress at Gabanintha has included an extremely high-grade resource re-estimation, including a high-grade zone of 11.3 million ones at 1.1% V2O5 within a measured and indicated resource of 24.7 million tonnes grading 0.8% V2O5.
The total measured, indicated and inferred resource in both low and high-grade domains is 91.4 million tonnes at 0.8% V2O5 and contains 750,000 tonnes of V2O5. This includes a high-grade zone of 56.8 million tonnes at 1% V2O5 for 563,000 tonnes of V2O5.
The extremely high-grade nature of this resource, which contains 200,000 tonnes of V2O5, and includes a substantial high grade zone over 1% in grade, highlights the strong potential for Gabanintha to be a world-class vanadium project with critical mass and low costs.
Historically, only high-grade vanadium projects have ever made it into production.
The revised resource paves the way for upcoming economic studies and feasibility work expected to outline a low-cost operation with strong margins targeting both the battery and steel markets.
This is an important step in Yellow Rock’s ambitions to be a significant player in the high-tech vanadium battery market since Skyllas-Kazacos’ skills will help determine the most effective means of capitalising on the company’s considerable potential.
Batteries represent a rapidly-expanding market which has massive positive implications for the volume of vanadium required globally.
As this industry reaches commercialisation, Yellow Rock’s expanded skillset in the field will expand the company’s ability to exploit opportunities in the science and economics surrounding vanadium in energy storage.
The energy storage market is projected to grow 100-fold in terms of gigawatts over the next seven years.
Growing awareness of the potential of the high-tech battery market has coincided with a 25% increase in Yellow Rock’s share price over the past two months.
Potential near-term catalysts for the stock will include upcoming economic optimisation and feasibility work along with ongoing flowsheet design optimisations, VRFB research updates and discussions between the company and vanadium battery manufacturers.
Skyllas-Kazacos’ appointment also builds momentum for Gabanintha on the heels of an extremely encouraging resource re-estimation that allows Yellow Rock to focus its efforts on economic and metallurgical studies in the short term.
Recent mineralogical testwork at Gabanintha has indicated favourable processing characteristics that bode well for a streamlined operational flowsheet.
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