Australian Vanadium Subsidiary VSUN Energy To Trial VRFB Standalone Power System At Major IGO Operation

“The installation of an SPS based on vanadium technology for pumping applications enables diesel to be almost entirely eliminated, helping reduce overall carbon emissions and providing reliable green power,” says AVL MD.

Australian Vanadium Ltd - Australian Vanadium subsidiary VSUN Energy to trial VRFB standalone power system at major IGO operation
The SPS to be installed at Nova Nickel Operation is based on a 300kWh VRFB from Spanish manufacturer E22.
Australian Vanadium Ltd (ASX:AVL) subsidiary VSUN Energy has signed an agreement with leading miner IGO Ltd for a project utilising a standalone power system based on vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) energy storage technology.

ASX 100 listed IGO will trial a VRFB standalone power system (SPS) supplied and installed by VSUN Energy at its Nova Nickel Operation in the Fraser Range of Western Australia.

An SPS supplies power independently to the electricity grid and typically comprises a combination of solar, wind, battery and backup generation from diesel or gas with the SPS to be installed at Nova based around a 300kWh VRFB from Spanish manufacturer E22.

Renewable energy supply

This system has been designed to provide 100% renewable energy supply for much of the year, with periods of long cloud cover supported by a diesel genset.

The VRFB will be initially issued free to IGO, with ownership or rental options after 12 months. The SPS will power a bore pump with a target of 100% renewable energy use.

This initiative is part of AVL’s strategy to add value to mined material through downstream processing in the battery value chain and keep the value in Australia with optimisation of power for pumps being a key area of focus for VSUN Energy across mining and agricultural markets.

“Towards carbon neutrality”

AVL managing director Vincent Algar comments, “Working with IGO on this project will accelerate the objectives of the companies and broader mining industry towards carbon neutrality.

“The robustness of VRFB energy storage makes it perfectly suited to the tough environments found on many Australian mine sites.

“The installation of an SPS based on vanadium technology for pumping applications enables diesel to be almost entirely eliminated, helping reduce overall carbon emissions and providing reliable green power. “We look forward to trialling and then duplicating this system based on an Australian invention and with Australian made vanadium electrolyte from AVL in WA.”

Shares higher

AVL’s shares were up as much as 19.6% to an intraday high of A$0.0275.

Funded partly by an Australian Government grant, AVL will build a value-added vanadium electrolyte manufacturing plant in Kwinana, WA, capable of producing 33MWh of energy storage capacity for the VRFB sector in line with aims to accelerate long-duration vanadium battery uptake in the mining industry.

Mining decarbonisation

With mining decarbonisation being a strong theme at the moment, the VRFB can help companies reduce diesel usage dramatically.

Total renewable penetration of 85-90% is being targeted for the trial of the VRFB based SPS system with the SPS redeployable for use on multiple mines sites and locations over its 20+ year service life.

The target of long periods with diesel-off will not only significantly reduce the carbon emissions of diesel generator powered bore fields but also offer substantial reductions in operating hours for service personnel.

These two significant benefits indicate a potentially rapid growth market segment for this technology.

“Enabling clean energy solutions”

IGO’s chief operating officer Matt Dusci said, “IGO’s strategic focus is on those products that are critical to enabling clean energy solutions, to create a better planet.

“As part of our strategy to deliver those products, we aspire to be carbon neutral across our business and to do this, in part, by leveraging renewable energy solutions and innovation to reduce emissions at our remote exploration and mining operations.

“We are excited to be collaborating with AVL on this pilot at our Nova operation.”

The IGO Nova Nickel Operation is about 160 kilometres east-northeast of Norseman and 360 kilometres southeast of Kalgoorlie. The mine produces nickel, copper and cobalt.

Government support

In July 2021 AVL was awarded a $3.69 million Federal Government manufacturing grant under the Modern Manufacturing Initiative Resources Technology and Critical Minerals Processing National Manufacturing Priority roadmap.

Part of the matched funding is allocated to development of the SPS that will be installed at IGO’s Nova operation.

The remainder of the grant will be used to finalise the high purity processing circuit for AVL’s Australian Vanadium Project; build and operate a commercial vanadium electrolyte manufacturing plant producing 33MWh per annum and manufacture a prototype of a residential VRFB.

AVL is developing the Australian Vanadium Project south of Meekatharra in Western Australia, the world’s next primary critical mineral vanadium mine for high-strength, low alloy steel and energy storage.

Agreement details

The agreement with IGO will end 12 months from the date of system commissioning and first power production, unless extended or terminated in accordance with the agreement.

The SPS is being provided to IGO at no charge, with the option to purchase or rent the system at the end of the trial period. The project will enable IGO to analyse the performance of the SPS for potential use in its dewatering and bore pumps systems.

VRFB attributes

VRFBs are particularly well suited as an SPS due to these attributes:

  • Non-flammable – safe to be operated in areas prone to bushfire and other sensitive areas;
  • High cycle life – the VRFB can be cycled tens of thousands of times with virtually no degradation in capacity. With a lifespan exceeding 20 years, the VRFB has longevity that matches renewable energy generation sources such as solar PV and will not require replacement multiple times over the life of a project;
  • Sustainability – at the end of the project, the VRFB can be fully recycled. The power unit of the battery is able to be recycled whilst the electrolyte can be reused in another battery or have the vanadium reclaimed for use within the steel industry. AVL will have the capability to recycle the electrolyte onsite in WA as part of AVL’s fully integrated VRFB strategy;
  • High temperature tolerance – the VRFB has a wider operating temperature range than most other energy storage technologies, giving it the ability to be deployed in all regions of Australia; and
  • Flexibility – the VRFB can be used in a variety of roles over its lifespan and is only limited by the control system being used.

VSUN Energy is in discussions with other mining companies and customers in the agricultural sector and will be able to share the findings from the IGO project with them.