Wed.
Sep 22
2021
vanadium
Image: Evraz

Vanadium?

From Star Trek? An element found on one of Jupiter’s moons?

Not exactly.

But in fact, it may help store power from the sun in batteries, among other uses.

Industries, governments and corporates are plenty interested in that. And so is private equity.

Amereus Group increased its stake in Evraz to 3% as it sees large unrealized value in the steel producer and miner’s vanadium business, according to a July 26 announcement from the private equity group.

The energy transition will require getting used to new commodities and elements. Vanadium is one of these. It is a key element in flow batteries, which may be paired with renewable energy generation as storage. 

What is vanadium? What’s the opportunity? Its a rare element that is crucial for the production of structural steels and vanadium-flow battery technology. It is used in energy storage applications for renewable and conventional energy, according to Amereus.

“Vanadium represents a strategic component of the global transition to green sources of energy,” according to Amereus. “Evraz has long established its dominant market position as a vanadium producer, and we see high-growth potential for this element among other Evraz-generated products.”

Canadian-listed Vanadium producer Largo Resources has similarly positioned itself as a contributor to lower carbon endeavors via the element. The use of vanadium in alloys strengthens steel, reducing the amount needed for use. The element is also essential in aerospace for creating fuel efficient aircraft, according to Largo, which is also using vanadium in batteries.

Vanadium batteries are being tested and deployed globally for gains from the battery’s ability to retain larger amounts of charge, without loss and for longer periods of time.

The batteries have several disadvantages: they are large, bulky and unsuitable for many dynamic uses, such as those commonly seen in solid state lithium-ion batteries. In addition, the liquids inside vanadium batteries require special handling.

Yet the battery type provides a solution as a “work horse” type of battery, able to effectively store energy onsite from wind and solar arrays during periods of low demand and deliver to the grid during high demand, regardless of sun or wind conditions.

Next-generation green energy projects will seek to do just that. Their aim will be to take the huge gains in costs and scale in getting power from the wind and sun from the past decade and harness them into ever more reliable deliverables.

Vanadium doesn’t come from an outer ring of Saturn or a moon off Jupiter. There is no Star Trek voyage required to procure it. Vanadium mines currently exist in South Africa, China, Russia and Brazil, among other nations.

It is here on Earth, and according to several investors, it is likely to play a bigger role in markets switching to green practices. Vanadium is one element to watch – no star gazing required.

By Stephen Bierman

Stephen Bierman is an energy markets journalist and the editor of New Economy Observer.

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