Vanadium is the ‘metal to watch’ in 2018, analyst says

Date: Jan 04, 2018

Prices for vanadium—a minor metal traditionally used to strengthen steel and more recently in a new generation of battery technology (vanadium redox batteries) that have potential to store electricity from solar and wind generation—are expected to take off in the coming years, Christopher Ecclestone of Hallgarten & Co. forecasts.

Vanadium pentoxide (V205) prices moved from around US$5 per lb. at the end of December 2016 to US$12.50 per lb. at the end of July 2017, before closing the year at US$9.50 per lb., and the U.K.-based analyst predicts the price will reach US$13.20 per lb. by the end of 2018, US$15.00 per lb. by the end of 2019, and US$19 per lb. by the end of 2020.

“Last decade vanadium surfaced as a subject of interest primarily tied to the fortunes of the then-booming steel industry,” he writes in a Jan. 3 research note. “Now vanadium is coming back with a vengeance for its potential in mass electricity storage devices, namely the vanadium redox battery or VRB.”

The surge in vanadium prices in the second half of 2017, he says, can be chalked up to “a combination of perceptions of changing Chinese policies on vanadium content in steel alloys and the fervor relating to alternative battery metals.”

China has been ruminating about increasing the vanadium content in steel to make it stronger, while vanadium’s potential in mass electricity storage devices, or vanadium redox batteries (VRB), have also made it appealing to investors.

And it hasn’t hurt that mine finacier Robert Friedland, who received a lifetime achievement award from The Northern Miner last year, has been singing the metal’s praises for some time now.

At a Natural Resources Forum event at the London Stock Exchange in July, Friedland spoke “in nothing short of a vanadium-induced ecstasy,” Ecclestone writes. “Never could we have imagined the metal having such a euphoric effect.”

His speech “gave the Friedland imprimatur to a metal which most metals watchers have rarely paid any attention to due to it (largely) being a by-product of the mining of other metals and, curiously, of the petroleum refining industry,” Ecclestone continues. “It was not just Friedland though that has latched onto this bandwagon as we have heard vanadium name-checked at a number of events during 2017 as the next big thing now that lithium has somewhat done its dash with promoters overcooking the soufflé.”

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