Current state and outlook for Vanadium

Date: Jan 11, 2019

In 2017, vanadium was the world’s best performing battery metal due, in part, to tightening supply amid strong demand from the steel industry. China’s new requirements for use of higher quality rebar for improved building construction is considered a key factor and clue for a long-term outlook: global demand for ferrovanadium in steel products is not going away and will likely accelerate as developing economies modernize in the coming decades. There are also few substitutions for vanadium to harden steel.

Growing demand is also likely to come from the utility and manufacturing sectors, where VRFB technologies could be the keystone that allows large clean energy projects to be seamlessly integrated into electrical grids where intermittency is no longer an issue. In 2014, vanadium use in battery technologies amounted to just 1,000 tons compared to a global production of 93,400 tons. It is estimates that vanadium demand for VRFB markets could rise to 31,000 tons by 2025, amounting to a rise of 3,100 percent in a decade.

China produced just over half of global mined vanadium, which totaled about 80,000 tons globally in 2017. The US produced none. Vanadium can also be recycled from other secondary industrial processes — catalysts, ash and residues. The type of vanadium used for VRFBs can come from mined or recycled sources, but purity needs to be in excess of 99.5 percent.

Between 2013 and 2016, the US imported about 10 percent of its vanadium pentoxide from China. As internal Chinese demand for VRFBs increases, the US would be well positioned to find domestic sources that can weather supply constraints and geopolitical tensions that may arise.

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