Industry report on vanadium battery
- Competition between vanadium battery VS lithium batteries
- Where is the safety of vanadium battery reflected?
- Vanadium resource supply and new technology challenges
- Will market demand lead to the extraction of vanadium from vanadium titanomagnetite?
The biggest advantage of vanadium battery energy storage is safety, but it faces the challenge of insufficient supply of vanadium resources in China and other new technologies. VRB is the current modular product provider of vanadium battery energy storage system in China.
Founded in 2007, VRB has installed and put into operation more than 70 vanadium battery energy storage projects in 12 countries and regions around the world. According to experts, the industrialization of various new energy storage technology routes such as lithium-ion batteries, vanadium battery, and compressed air is significantly accelerating.
1. Competition between vanadium battery VS lithium batteries
Compared with traditional pumped water energy storage and molten salt energy storage, energy storage including lithium-ion batteries, lead batteries, sodium-sulfur batteries, compressed air, flow batteries (currently mainly vanadium battery), supercapacitors and flywheel energy storage. The energy method is called a new type of energy storage.
New energy storage is just emerging. According to the data, by the end of 2021, the cumulative installed capacity of new energy storage in China accounted for 12.5% of the total installed capacity of energy storage. At present, lithium batteries are temporarily leading.
By the end of 2021, lithium batteries accounted for 89.6% of the cumulative installed capacity of new energy storage in China, and vanadium battery accounted for 0.9%. The reason is that driven by the application of new energy vehicles, lithium batteries are cheaper and more mature in technology.
According to statistics, in early 2022, the cost of lithium battery energy storage projects is about 1.8 RMB/Wh. Moreover, the energy storage factories also increasing rapidly. You can check our top 10 energy storage company in China article to see which company is on the list. The current cost of vanadium battery is about 3 RMB/Wh, and large-scale projects can reduce the cost to 2.5 RMB/Wh.
The full name of vanadium battery is all-vanadium redox flow battery. The principle is to use the vanadium oxide to contact the electrode for electrochemical reaction to convert chemical energy into electrical energy. The vanadium ion electrolyte contains chemical energy, which is stored in the storage tank by the vanadium battery energy storage system.
The external pump is used to press the electrolyte from the storage tank into the battery stack, so that the electrolyte flows parallel to the electrode surface and electrochemistry reaction occurs to complete the charging or discharging of the vanadium battery energy storage system.
2. Where is the safety of vanadium battery reflected?
- The vanadium oxide used in vanadium battery can exist in an aqueous solution, so that thermal runaway, combustion and explosion are not easy to occur; but lithium has good chemical activity and is unstable in water, and can only exist in organic electrolytes. It is flammable and explosive.
- The electrolyte of vanadium battery is separated from the stack, so there will be no spontaneous combustion similar to that of lithium battery due to internal short circuit.
- When dealing with medium and large-scale energy storage needs, the vanadium battery system only needs to increase the volume of electrolyte, which is safe and controllable. However, lithium batteries need to increase the number of single cells, and the larger the number, the greater the probability of accidents. A large number of the centralized storage of lithium batteries is also more prone to danger.
3. Vanadium resource supply and new technology challenges
If vanadium battery are widely used, the vanadium supply pentoxide in China will be tight. According to the data, by the end of 2021, the cumulative installed capacity of new energy storage in China is about 4GW. By 2025, the new energy storage will complete the transition from the initial stage of commercialization to large-scale development, and the cumulative installed capacity will reach more than 30GW.
Based on this, experts predict that from 2022 to 2025, the year-on-year growth rate of new installed capacity of new energy storage in China will reach 69%, 69%, 64%, and 64%, respectively. The year-on-year growth rate can reach 123%, 80%, 40%, 44%. Among the annual installed capacity of new energy storage in China in 2025, vanadium battery energy storage can account for 15% to 20%.
Experts believe that around 2025, the annual newly installed capacity of vanadium battery energy storage in China will reach 2.13GW-3.5GW. The key material of vanadium battery is vanadium pentoxide required for making electrolyte. At present, 40%-50% of the cost of vanadium battery comes from electrolyte. Electrolyte plays a vital role in the process of battery manufacturing. If you want to know further about electrolyte, you can have a look at our lithium ion battery electrolyte article. According to the data, 1GW vanadium battery needs 39,200 tons of vanadium pentoxide, and the market demand for vanadium pentoxide will increase rapidly.
Data show that China’s vanadium pentoxide production in 2021 will be 136,000 tons. Moreover, more than 90% of the vanadium produced in China every year is used in the steel industry to improve the performance of steel, and the demand for this part will not decrease. It is not easy to increase the production of vanadium pentoxide in the short term.
The static mineable life of vanadium battery resources is about 224 years, which is equivalent to the mineable life of lithium resources of 214 years. Vanadium resources are mainly distributed in China, Russia, South Africa and Australia. By the end of 2021, China’s vanadium ore reserves are 9.5 million tons, accounting for 40% of the world.
Although vanadium has high reserves in the earth’s crust, independent vanadium ores are rare, and most of them form symbiotic or composite ores with other minerals. 52% of China’s vanadium resources are contained in vanadium titanomagnetite, and another 48% is contained in vanadium-bearing stone coal.
The initial source of vanadium pentoxide is vanadium titanomagnetite, which is mainly used for smelting steel. After smelting, vanadium steel slag will be produced, and vanadium pentoxide can be extracted from vanadium steel slag. Due to the mature technology of vanadium extraction from steel slag, the extraction cost of vanadium pentoxide per ton is 70,000-100,000 RMB. Therefore, 86.9% of vanadium in China is extracted from vanadium steel slag.
4. Will market demand lead to the extraction of vanadium from vanadium titanomagnetite?
LB plans to build a vanadium pentoxide project with an annual production capacity of 30,000 tons. This project is to directly extract vanadium from vanadium titanomagnetite by wet process, and the recovery rate is higher than vanadium steel slag extraction. Vanadium pentoxide can also be extracted from stone coal, a low-quality anthracite with low carbon content and low calorific value. Most of the vanadium pentoxide in Chinese stone coal is below 0.8%.
The extraction of vanadium from stone coal will produce hydrogen chloride and sulfur dioxide. The environmental protection treatment pressure is high, and the comprehensive cost is relatively high. The environmental protection department also strictly restricts this. According to the data, the output of stone coal ore in China dropped from 1.4 million tons in 2009 to 300,000 tons in 2015. With the recovery of market demand, some large enterprises made technological breakthroughs, and the output of stone coal ore gradually rose to 1 million tons or so in 2018.
However, it is difficult to change the supply pattern of vanadium pentoxide in China in the short term, because the construction period when vanadium extraction from stone coal is similar to that of vanadium titanomagnetite extraction. The current output of vanadium extraction from stone coal is very low. According to the data, the output of vanadium pentoxide extracted from stone coal in China in 2021 is only 12,500 tons, while the output of vanadium pentoxide extracted from vanadium steel slag will be 123,500 tons.
To sum up, the tight supply of vanadium pentoxide may not ease until 2025. This means that the vanadium price resources will rise, and the vanadium cost of battery energy storage will also rise. According to experts, the price of vanadium pentoxide has risen sharply this year, which is the biggest factor affecting the energy storage of vanadium battery.
Vanadium battery also face challenges from new technologies. For example, the principle of iron-chromium flow battery is similar to that of vanadium battery. The electrolyte solution is stored in the storage tank separately, and the electrolytic hydraulic pressure is pumped into the stack for electrochemical reaction, and then recycled back to the storage tank.
The difference is that it uses iron and chromium resources, and the cost is lower. However, the energy density of iron-chromium flow batteries is lower than that of vanadium battery, and its technological maturity and commercialization progress are not as good as those vanadium battery.