Date: Nov 16, 2018

The battery mineral is still largely being used in steel production, but its demand is expected to explode as vanadium redox flow batteries are used to store renewable energy.

Conference attendees

The conference was held at the Westin Hotel in Perth

The central theme to this week’s Technology and Low Emission Minerals Conference was how battery mineral markets, as well as uranium and other clean energy commodities, will be impacted by renewable energy targets and expanding climate change policy.

Speaking after lunch on the first day, CSA Global Pty Ltd principal consultant Tony Donaghy gave a presentation titled ‘Vanadium: Putting Renewable Energy to Work When You Need It’ which detailed the current vanadium market and its growing potential for use in battery storage.

Supported by presentations from vanadium players such as Australian Vanadium Ltd (ASX:AVL) and ScandiVanadium Ltd (ASX:SVD), the conference was reminded of vanadium’s huge growth potential as the principal element in vanadium redox flow batteries.

READ: Technology and Low Emission Minerals Conference hears WA ready to leverage battery power revolution

Vanadium was the best performing battery mineral in the last 12 months, based on price increases, despite most of global supply going to steel production.

Donaghy said that vanadium consumption had substantial room to grow in Asian steel markets due to potential improvements in grade and purity.

New standards for Chinese rebar will require more vanadium and further steel production is expected to increase demand for automotive and aviation materials and high-strength steel structures.

He also noted that analysts had predicted a significant deficit in vanadium by 2027, based on current projects in the pipeline and expected demand trends.

The present vanadium supply is largely dominated by coke production in steel markets, with vanadium in batteries growing from 1% in 2015 to 2% in 2017.

In that same period, however, vanadium consumption from steel also increased from 68% to 76%.

Only 17% of present supply comes from primary vanadium sources, with the remainder produced as by-products.

Donaghy listed a number of current supply constraints including lower production in China; shutdowns such as South Africa Highveld Steel; and lower North American vanadium volumes.

CSA Global’s Tony Donaghy

ScandiVanadium director Brandon Munro introduced the emerging vanadium junior’s shale-hosted project in Sweden and briefed the audience on the critical role vanadium redox flow batteries will play as renewables take greater shares in power grids.

He said: “Vanadium appeals to me in a very deep, purpose-driven way – I’ve done a lot of work with the World Nuclear Association, and that’s been primarily driven at understanding the forward demand trajectory for nuclear power.

“And you can’t understand nuclear power demand unless you understand renewable demand, and the role renewables can play.

“There’s a key piece missing, and that is that intermittent renewables, without a storage solution, are hugely destructive to the existing grid infrastructure that we have spent the last 100 years building.”

Munro said that without storage capacity to back-up intermittent renewables, he believed our societies would start to reject renewables because they would mess with grid infrastructure.

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