What is Vanadium?
Elemental vanadium is a soft silvery-grey mineral that is classified as a
ductile transition metal. It has good resistance to corrosion and it is
stable against alkalis, sulfuric and hydrochloric acids.
Vanadium makes up about 0.012% of the earths crust and while metallic vanadium is not found in nature it is known to exist in about 65 different minerals (eg Carnotite, Vanadinite, Francevillite).
Vanadium also occurs in deposits of:
- Phosphate rock
- Titaniferous magnetite (Mount Peake)
- Uraniferous sandstone and siltstone
- Bauxite, and
- Carboniferous deposits of coal, crude oil, oil shale and tar sands.
Vanadium is also produced as a by-product of the iron and steel industry. Iron ores containing amounts of V on the order of 1.0%-1.5% are processed in a furnace, creating slags that may contain as much as 25% vanadium pentoxide.
World vanadium resources are thought to exceed 63 million tonnes.
|Red Vanadinite Crystals|
| Vanadinite Stone|
Primary Uses of Vanadium
Vanadium has one predominant use, as a strengthening additive in steel and some forms of iron. According to the US Geological Survey (USGS) (2014), approximately 82,700 tonnes of vanadium were produced in 2014. Metallurgical applications dominate US consumption with 95% of reported consumption being metallurgical including steel, iron and titanium alloys. By adding small amounts of V, as little as 0.15% by weight for microalloy or low-alloy steels up to 5% by weight for high-alloy steels intended for use in high-speed tools, the hardness, strength and wear resistance of the steel is significantly enhanced.
Of the other uses for vanadium, the major nonmetallurgical use was in catalysts for the production of maleic anhydride and sulfuric acid, but other applications include ceramics, electronics and vanadium chemicals.
A new use has been found in Vanadium Redox Batteries (VRB), which are flow batteries designed to store large amounts of energy in a safe manner that can be adjusted to meet variable energy loads.
The VRB can be described in several ways. It is:
- An electrochemical system that efficiently converts chemical energy to electrical energy, and vice versa
- A ‘flow battery' that rapidly charges and discharges
- A patented process based on the reduction and oxidation of different forms of the element Vanadium
- An on-demand energy storage system where:
- A) The electrolyte never wears out and overall maintenance costs are extremely low;
- B) Energy (electricity) can be stored in liquid form, at room temperature, almost indefinitely; and
- C) Customers do not have to buy more capacity than they immediately need, and can easily add energy and power in modular fashion over time.
Energy from wind turbines and solar cells can also be stored in VRBs.
Application of Vanadium Redox Batteries
The extremely large capacities possible from vanadium redox batteries make them well suited to use in large power storage applications such as helping to average out the production of highly variable generation sources such as wind or solar power, or to help generators cope with large surges in demand.
Resource Investor has published an article on Vanadium entitled "Vanadium boost would give batteries more juice". Please click here to view the article.
- Predicted key drivers for growth in the vanadium market are expected to be:
- Growth from Brazil, Russia, India, China
- Demand increase for high strength low alloy steel, which contains vanadium
- Vanadium batteries
- Mature economies forecast higher intensity use of vanadium in steels than industrialising countries
- Strong demand is expected to support high vanadium prices over the next decade.
- Over the last 10 years vanadium demand grew at a rate of 13 percent p.a.