VRF Batteries Set to Boost Demand For Vanadium Massively

Highlights :

  • VRFBs may reach approximately 32.8 GWh per annum by 2031 – a CAGR of over 41 per cent in the period

Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries, (VRFB) have definitely brought Vanadium to the centre stage. It is a classified critical raw material in several countries around the world. Back in 2017, the European Commission identified and formally registered vanadium on the 2017 list of Critical Raw Materials for the European Union. Further, the United States, Canada and Australia have also listed vanadium as critical to supporting their economies. So, the question is, why is Vanadium so important for the international community?

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It is true that vanadium is largely used within the steel industry. But that is not the whole story of it being so important. Vanadium is increasingly being recognised for its use in vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFB).

Vanadium for VRFB

The new battery technology is looking for a breakthrough in the battery energy storage sector soon. As per one report on the metals required for clean energy by Eurometaux – Europe’s metals association, VRFB is one of the alternative energy storage technologies that may grow in importance and reach penetration rates of 20% of the market.

As per studies, the use of vanadium in the battery energy storage sector will experience disruptive growth this decade. Further, a recent analysis by market intelligence and advisory firm, Guidehouse Insights, states that the global annual deployments of VRFBs may reach approximately 32.8 GWh per annum by 2031 – a CAGR of over 41 per cent in the period.

Merits of Using VRFBs

The VRFB technology exhibit various advantages; from storing large amounts of variable renewable energy to durability that is, minimal capacity degradation, resulting in significantly longer cycle lifetimes than Li-ion battery technology. Even multiple discharges each day does not affect its longevity. Economics and sustainability are another reason of why it is considered to be a viable alternative to the existing technologies. Liquid electrolytes in a VRFB can be reused in another battery after the rest of the battery components have worn down.

The batteries use aqueous electrolytes composed mainly of water and are inherently non-flammable. This is a major point of difference from its Li-ion storage counterpart. VRFBs do not present the same explosion or fire risks that Li-ion systems do.

Significance of Vanadium

Vanadium is used primarily as an alloying element in the Iron & Steel Industry and to some extent as a stabiliser in titanium and aluminium alloys used in the aerospace industry. Modern applications of vanadium include its use as vanadium secondary batteries for power plants and rechargeable Vanadium Redox Battery (VRB) for commercial applications. Further, Vanadium alloys are used in nuclear reactors because of vanadium’s low neutron-absorbing properties.

According to the same reports, vanadium demand would increase equivalent to +110% of current demand. The battery technology dependent on Vanadium can store large amounts of electrical energy produced by solar and wind power generators on a daily basis as a means to drive the deep decarbonization of electric power systems. Vanadium has therefore been classified as a critical raw material by several countries around the world.

Vanadium Market

The Global Vanadium market is anticipated to rise at a considerable rate between 2022 and 2027. China leads the Vanadium production with more than half of the total being mined in China, while China, Russia and South Africa together account for 85% of the world’s mining produce. As of now, the main demand for Vanadium is from the steel industry. Whereas, in recent years there has been an increasing interest in the vanadium’s possible application in batteries. Before the pandemic-induced reduction in demand, the main hindrance in the way of VRFB was the high metal price. The decline in metal prices led to renewed interest in researching the production of vanadium VRFB batteries.

Vanadium in India

Last year, exploration by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) found reserves of Vanadium in Arunachal Pradesh, India. Concentrations of vanadium have been found in the palaeo-­proterozoic (era) carbonaceous phyllite rocks in the Depo and Tamang areas of Papum Pare district in Arunachal Pradesh. There are various other potential sites in various districts in Arunachal Pradesh.

India is a significant consumer of vanadium but is not a primary producer of this metal. As per a GSI survey, in 2017, India consumed 4% of the total global production of Vanadium.

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Junaid Shah

Junaid holds a Master of Engineering degree in Construction & Management. Being a civil engineering postgraduate and using his technical prowess, he has channeled his passion for writing in the environmental niche.

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