U.S. Vanadium calls for government help
Says tariffs would help break reliance on foreign suppliers Metal Tech News – August 26, 2020
Last updated 9/9/2020 at 5:10am
U.S. Vanadium Holding Company LLC, an Arkansas-based producer of high-purity vanadium pentoxide, is urging the United States government to take steps to bolster domestic production of vanadium.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, roughly 94% of the titanium used in the U.S. last year went into stronger, lighter, and more durable steels and other alloys.
Vanadium-alloyed steels are used in virtually every high-strength structural steel application in military equipment, including steels used to build aircraft carriers and submarines, combat vehicles, tactical bridges, aircraft, and munitions.
In the commercial sector, vanadium-alloyed steels are used in infrastructure applications such as auto parts, buildings, bridges, cranes, pipelines, rail cars, ships, and truck bodies.
When it comes to strength-to-weight ratio, titanium-vanadium alloys are among the best materials ever engineered. This is invaluable to an aerospace sector seeking to shave pounds off aircraft and space vehicles without sacrificing durability.
"Vanadium, when combined with titanium, produces a stronger and more stable alloy, and when combined with aluminum produces a material suitable for jet engines and high-speed airframes," USGS penned in a 2018 critical minerals report. "No acceptable substitutes exist for vanadium in aerospace titanium alloys."
While alloys currently drive the market for vanadium, emerging battery technologies will likely add to the demand for this critical metal.
One such technology is vanadium redox-flow batteries (VRBs), which can store large amounts of electricity that could be fed into power-grids when the need arises.
"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," USGS wrote.
Vanadium is also used as a catalyst in making acids such as maleic anhydride and sulfuric acid.
U.S. Vanadium's Hot Springs facility can produce vanadium pentoxide at the very high purity levels required by demanding applications such as maleic anhydride catalyst, bismuth vanadate pigments and vanadium batteries.
The U.S., however, relies on overseas suppliers – primarily Russia, China, Brazil, and South Africa – for more than 90% of its vanadium needs.
U.S. Department of Commerce is currently investigating whether this import dependence for the critical alloy and battery metal is a threat to U.S. national security.
In a joint letter to the commerce department, U.S. Vanadium and AMG Vanadium said tariffs on vanadium imports are needed to strengthen domestic production of this critical mineral.
"Supply lines from South Africa, Russia, Brazil, and China are obviously lengthy and subject to periodic and unpredictable disruption, particularly from government action," said U.S. Vanadium CEO Jody Orme. "Fortunately, the U.S. currently has the capability to meet total demand for high-purity vanadium, and more than half of the demand for steel-grade vanadium, if proper relief is provided and proper economic conditions are created."