As the clean energy wave crashes across Australia, it is becoming increasingly hard to ignore the emerging revolution as lithium-ion and vanadium battery uptake increases and we see more electric vehicles on our roads.
At the recent Technology and Low Emission Minerals Conference in Western Australia, the WA Minister for Mines Bill Johnston pointed out that although the future is impossible to predict, we are heading towards one of increased energy storage, lightning fast battery recharging and baseload energy supply for countries across the world.
“And WA, with its abundance of battery minerals and technological know-how, is in the box seat to play a pivotal role,” he said.
According to Minister Johnston, WA supplied about 44% of the world’s lithium last year.
However, Minister Johnston pointed out WA is more than just a lithium hub.
Nickel and cobalt, which are also critical to the lithium-ion battery are also on the rise, with WA producing more than $2 billion-worth of nickel for global markets in 2017.
In addition to the lithium-ion battery, vanadium battery technology is also growing, and, unsurprisingly, WA also has significant vanadium resources to feed the surging market.
Former ASX-listed entity Atlantic Vanadium is looking to be first off the rank as it plans to restart its Windimurra mine near Mt Magnet in WA, which is on care on maintenance.
Atlantic is targeting a 2020 restart, while Australian Vanadium (ASX: AVL) is hoping to be the next WA vanadium producer, with a thorough pre-feasibility study on its flagship Gabanintha project nearing completion.
Australian Vanadium is advancing the high-grade Gabanintha project to feed vanadium redox flow and steel demand globally for at least 17 years.
Gabanintha has a current resource of 175.5 million tonnes grading 0.77% vanadium pentoxide, with a higher-grade component of 93.6Mt grading 1% vanadium.
At a vanadium pentoxide price of US$20 per pound, the project has a net present value of US$2.37 billion. However, if the current US$33/lb vanadium price remains or increases further, the project’s net present value could be substantially more.
Despite vanadium’s present lofty highs, Australian Vanadium remains pragmatic and is focused on ensuring its flagship project is economical during a potential downturn.
Vanadium redox flow batteries
The company has also de-risked the project further by establishing VSun Energy, which is actively focused on growing Australia’s vanadium redox flow battery market.
Vanadium batteries have multiple advantages over lithium-ion batteries including ease of scale, longer lifespan, and improved safety.
The battery is suitable for both grid and off-grid use.
Australian Vanadium estimates about 10,000t of vanadium pentoxide per annum is required to meet vanadium battery demand and this figure is only expected to rise as battery consumption takes off worldwide.