VanadiumCorp Resource (TSX:VRB) and Electrochem Technologies & Materials have taken another step toward producing vanadium electrolyte for use in vanadium redox flow batteries (VRBs).
Vancouver-based VanadiumCorp and Montreal’s Electrochem signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding in February under which they will work together to produce vanadium electrolyte directly from vanadiferous titaniferous magnetite (VTM) concentrate.
Vanadium electrolyte is a key component of VRBs, and Adriaan Bakker, CEO of VanadiumCorp, said at the time, “[o]ur partnership with Electrochem will focus on the most critical cost reducing component of vanadium batteries.” He sees the partnership “reduc[ing] cost/kWh and accelerat[ing] commercialization of vanadium based energy storage.”
Since then, the companies have made quick progress. In April, they completed Phase I development of their Vanadiumcorp-Electrochem Process Technology, and at the end of May they began Phase II work. Progress on Phase II has continued since then — the companies said last week that they have now started sample VTM concentrate production from drill core from VanadiumCorp’s Lac Dore project.
As VanadiumCorp explains in a release, “[t]he first stage of the technology converts VTM concentrate into copperas crystal. High purity iron is then recovered by electro-winning while vanadium remains in solution and titanium dioxide is left as marketable residue.” The companies see the process being applicable to various types of feedstock, not just VTM concentrate from Lac Dore.
Over the course of last week, VanadiumCorp’s share price gained 56.25 percent to close at $0.13. Year-to-date the company’s share price has risen 78.57 percent.
The broader VRB landscape
As mentioned, vanadium electrolyte is used in VRBs. VRBs are not as well known as other battery types, but are expected to be important in meeting the world’s increasing energy needs.
Dr. Maria Skyllas-Kazacos, the creator of the VRB, has described VRBs as batteries that use sulfuric solutions to power themselves. Perhaps most notably, VRBs do not wear out. Testing has shown they have 200,000 charging and discharging cycles, with research suggesting they could have infinite lifetimes. They are large and nonflammable, says Forbes, and are best suited to industrial- and utility-scale applications.
Unsurprisingly, firms other than VanadiumCorp are working hard to make these batteries a bigger part of the world’s energy landscape. In fact, the same day that the company announced its latest news, UniEnergy Technologies was recognized as a winner of a Green Chemistry Challenge Award for its advanced VRB.
Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how VRB technology develops. A recent report from GTM Research shows that the US energy storage market will increase tenfold from 2016 to 2022, rising to $3.2 billion. While lithium-ion batteries continue to dominate the energy storage market with a 96.5-percent share, VRBs are in second place with 3 percent of the market through Sumitomo’s (TSE:8316) pilot VRB project in California.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Shaw, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.