Battery Metals

India’s burgeoning steel demand, which is expected to record even bigger growth than China, will lead to unprecedented demand in coming years for Vanadium, a metal primarily used a steel strengthener.

By Karan Kumar – Exclusive to Vanadium Investing News

India’s burgeoning steel demand, which is expected to record even bigger growth than China, will lead to unprecedented demand in coming years for vanadium, a metal primarily used a steel strengthener. According to figures released by the World Steel Association this month, India’s steel use is forecast to grow by 4.3 percent in 2011 and accelerate to 7.9 percent next year. China’s steel demand, by comparison, is seen rising by 7.5 percent in 2011 and 6 percent in 2012.

“I see vanadium demand continuing, as the primary user (of the metal) is the steel strengthening industry,” said Paul Casey, business development director at American Vanadium Corp. (TSXV:AVC), a Vancouver, Canada-based firm that is currently developing the Gibellini Project, a vanadium deposit located in Nevada. Gibellini could potentially supply approximately 5 percent of current global vanadium demand, the company says.

“The increase in vanadium demand is going to have an effect on global demand and supply,” Casey added. “Our expectation is that in the next year or two, the market is going to be pretty balanced. But in the next three to four years, we are going to see a catch up on the supply side. China and India and the BRIC countries are going to have huge demand.”

Crosshair Exploration Ltd. (TSX:CXX), a company which explores and develops uranium, vanadium and gold in Canada and the United States, estimates that vanadium demand is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 7.8 percent through to 2015, fuelled partly due to India’s steel production which is expected to double from 65 million tonnes to 124 million tonnes a year by 2011. Crosshair, quoting research from analysts and other sources for an investor presentation, said it sees vanadium demand growing to 757,000 tonnes by 2014 from 591,000 tonnes in 2007.

The demand for vanadium looks strong in coming years due to increasing steel consumption in emerging nations and also due to the requirement of higher steel quality in these markets. Markets such as India and China are placing more importance on producing higher grades of steel, which require vanadium, American Vanadium Corp.’s Casey said.

Chris Berry, founder of House Mountain Partners, said in a September interview that more than 90 percent of the vanadium produced these says is used as a steel strengthener, adding that nearly all of the metal is used in the build-out of “infrastructure that is occurring disproportionately in countries such as China.”

A potential use of vanadium could come in the emerging field of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, Berry said, adding that the metal is also being used in vanadium redox batteries, a large-scale battery used for alternative energy storage.

“The use of vanadium in LIBs for electric vehicles is not significant yet, but could eventually become important as the transportation sector electrifies,” he said. “Vanadium redox batteries just haven’t been in mass, widespread use. Growing economies in countries like China and India and even in continents like South America are becoming accustomed to an increase in the quality of life. In my opinion, to maintain and increase that quality of life, you need access to energy, cheap and reliable energy. The electricity grid has been described as the only supply chain without storage capacity. Vanadium redox batteries can address this.”

If electric vehicles or vanadium redox batteries become more prevalent and the technology takes hold, experts say vanadium demand, coupled with growing use in China and India for infrastructure, could surge and more production will have to come on line.

“Vanadium for battery storage is where the vanadium story really gets interesting and exciting,” American Vanadium’s Casey said. “If you love the story of the electric car, you’ve got to love the story of vanadium. Electric cars are part of our future and if that is the case, there is no way supply of vanadium can keep up with demand.”



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