The vanadium mines to batteries strategy
VanadiumCorp elevates entire redox flow battery supply chain Metal Tech News Weekly Edition – June 17, 2020
Last updated 6/27/2020 at 6:25am
VanadiumCorp Resource Inc. has positioned itself along the entire vanadium-based energy storage supply chain, from Canadian mineral exploration projects that could provide future supplies of this critical metal, to new technology to sustainably produce battery-grade vanadium, and even developing its own brand of vanadium redox flow batteries.
"Whether you believe in climate change, reducing pollution, or simply making the world a better place, we can all agree there is no downside in building a better world for future generations and those less fortunate than ourselves," said VanadiumCorp Resource President and CEO Adriaan Bakker. "To facilitate the required transition from fossil fuels to green energy, VanadiumCorp has developed an integrated supply chain as a key solution. Our goal of cost-effective green energy is made possible by combining strategic vanadium battery supply and green process technology to enable the indefinite use of vanadium in energy storage."
Traditionally used to create stronger, lighter, and more durable steels and other alloys, vanadium is emerging as a potential element in the grid-scale batteries needed to store renewable energy.
Vanadium redox flow batteries, or VRFBs, take advantage of vanadium's ability to exist in solution in four different oxidation states as electroactive elements, instead of separate elements for the cathode and anode.
The amount of energy a VRFB can store is really only limited by the size of the storage tanks built to hold the vanadium electrolytes, which are separated by a membrane and vanadium electrons flow back and forth during charging and discharging.
These batteries can also remain completely charged over an extended period or be completely discharged without major effects – advantages that make them particularly well suited for backup and renewable energy storage.
"The emerging need for large-scale electricity storage makes vanadium redox flow batteries a major potential future use of vanadium," the U.S. Geological Survey penned in a 2018 report on minerals and metal critical to the United States. "Because of their large-scale storage capacity, development of VRBs could prompt increases in the use of wind, solar, and other renewable, intermittent power sources."
These large-scale electrical storage units lie at the application end of the supply chain being developed by VanadiumCorp.
"The future is electric, and with VanadiumCorp it can be 100% green with vanadium-based energy storage technology powered by its own supply chain," said Bakker.
Quebec vanadium exploration
The frontend of VanadiumCorp's emergent supply chain lies in two promising vanadium exploration projects in Quebec –Lac Doré and Iron T.
Situated about 17 miles (27 kilometers) southeast of Chibougamau, a mining town in central Quebec, Lac Doré hosts a band of iron-titanium-vanadium mineralization that is 2,000 meters long, 200 meters wide, and at least 200 meters deep.
This band of vanadiferous titanomagnetite mineralization was discovered in 1966 but has only seen intermittent exploration over the years.
Looking to establish a resource that meets today's reporting standards, VanadiumCorp drilled 37 holes at Lac Doré last year. So far, the company has received assay results from 30 of these holes, Highlights include:
• 75.1 meters averaging 56.6% iron, 11.7% titanium, and 0.66% vanadium in hole LD-19-009.
• 32.7 meters averaging 51.8% iron, 11.2% titanium, and 0.73% vanadium in hole LD-19-013.
• 41.7 meters averaging 54.7% iron, 11.3% titanium, and 0.68% vanadium in hole LD-19-015.
• 48.7 meters averaging 56.4% iron, 11.5% titanium, and 0.69% vanadium in hole LD-19-025.
• 83.6 meters averaging 53.6% iron, 11.4% titanium, and 0.61% vanadium in hole LD-19-026.
• 68.9 meters averaging 56.6% iron, 11.7% titanium, and 0.67% vanadium in hole LD-19-029.
With consistent grades that are comparable to other mines where vanadium is the primary product, this drilling indicates the potential of outlining a mineable deposit at Lac Doré. This project also happens to be within about 12 miles (19 kilometers) away from rail and industrial power, infrastructure could get even closer with the development of a mine on BlackRock Metals' neighboring vanadium property.
Situated about 220 miles (350 kilometers) west of Lac Doré, Iron-T is a more advanced exploration project that hosts 14.38 million metric tons of inferred resource averaging 0.42% vanadium, or about 0.77% vanadium-equivalent when you calculate the value of the iron and titanium also found there.
Last October, VanadiumCorp optioned Iron-T to a private Canadian corporation. Under a three-part deal – C$1 million in cash and stock payments to VanadiumCorp; at least C$5 million invested in additional exploration on the project; and producing a positive feasibility study, an economic and engineering assessment that shows the viability of developing a mine – the private company can gain full ownership of Iron-T.
Should Iron-T reach production, however, VanadiumCorp has retained a first right of refusal to acquire up to 200,000 metric tons vanadiferous titanomagnetite concentrate per year for the life of the future mine.
"This agreement offers the potential of exclusive vanadium feedstock required for a VanadiumCorp processing facility to enable a new vanadium redox flow battery industry in Quebec, Canada," said Bakker.
Green processing tech
VandiumCorp's envisioned processing facility will incorporate a patent-pending method of producing vanadium, iron, and titanium that the company has developed in partnership with Electrochem Technologies & Materials Inc., a Quebec-based company that specializes in electrochemical processes for extracting and recycling metals such as vanadium, tungsten, tantalum, and rare earth elements.
Known as Vanadium Electrochem Process Technology, or VEPT, this new technique developed by renowned electrochemist Francois Cardarelli uses less heat and more science to recover 95% of the vanadium, iron, and titanium from vanadiferous titanomagnetite.
This is a much cleaner method than conventional methods of roasting and smelting that requires the burning of two tons of carbon to produce one ton of vanadium, and leaves the iron and titanium as a waste material that must be disposed of.
In addition to significantly reducing the carbon and environmental footprint of refining concentrates into battery-grade vanadium, VEPT is expected to lower the cost of producing this battery metal due to the added revenue from selling the iron and titanium-dioxide co-products.
VanadiumCorp said piloting is not required to demonstrate the commercial viability of VEPT and the company plans to carry out a commercial demonstration in a 20,000-metric-ton-per-year digester and reactor that is already in place within a global processing facility.
In addition, VanadiumCorp has signed a patent option agreement that would allow Ultra Power Systems PTY Ltd. to acquire an exclusive license for VEPT in Australia.
Privately owned and financed, Ultra Power Systems hopes to utilize the VEPT technology to build a vanadium electrolyte facility to process the abundant vanadium-bearing resources in Australia and produce vanadium batteries that can be leased to mines and remote communities, primarily in Canada and Australia.
"We are excited to commercialize VEPT exclusively in the mining friendly and vanadium-rich jurisdiction of Australia," said Ultra Power Systems Managing Director Brad Appleyard. "With strong channel partners, investors and government support we intend to establish the leading integrated solution for vanadium batteries worldwide."
For VanadiumCorp, this and other similar licensing agreements for other global jurisdictions accelerates its plans to elevate vanadium batteries as viable storage for cost-effective green energy.
"This agreement represents a new chapter for VanadiumCorp with the benefit of cash flow and a realistic commercialization pathway for VanadiumCorp and Electrochem's jointly developed green processing technology," said Bakker. "Our vision to establish the most efficient and sustainable solution for energy storage is within reach years sooner than anticipated."
VanadiumCorp XRG batteries
Vanadium solutions produced by VEPT would provide the electrolytes for XRG, a vanadium redux flow battery technology and brand of VanadiumCorp GmbH, a Germany-based subsidiary.
XRG's vanadium battery system stores energy in liquid vanadium electrolyte that never degrades. VRFB hardware can be recycled and the vanadium electrolyte can be reused indefinitely, another advantage over lead-acid, lithium-ion, and other battery systems that experience cross contamination due to the different anode and cathode materials.
VanadiumCorp's XRG batteries are modular and can be built with capacities as low as 20-kilowatt-hour for residential electrical storage and up to several megawatt-hour for grid-scale applications.
"VRFBs are uniquely suited to replace diesel for remote communities, build clean electric vehicle charging infrastructure, backup power to prevent blackouts and enabling microgrids crucial for national security and modernizing the entire power grid with renewable infrastructure." Bakker said.
Despite their advantages, especially when it comes to microgrids, vanadium redox batteries are lagging behind their lithium-ion counterparts when it comes to economics of scale.
A recent study funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, however concluded that vanadium flow batteries may become the more attractive solution for microgrid electrical storage as the technology matures and the price comes down.
By tackling the entire supply chain, VanadiumCorp hopes to accelerate VRFB maturity, while also shrinking the carbon footprint of the entire process, from mines to batteries.
"With a substantial resource base in Canada and technology to unlock global supply, I believe VanadiumCorp may hold the key to our low carbon future," said Bakker.