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Vanadium batteries, on fire

The trend of investing by the periodic table continues, and this time it is: vanadium.

Recently, vanadium batteries are becoming the “new kid on the block” in the big family of electrochemical energy storage.

Why is that? First, in a document released by the Energy Bureau in June, it was mentioned that medium to large electrochemical energy storage plants should not use ternary lithium batteries or sodium-sulfur batteries, nor should they use ladder batteries.

Once the document came out, the vanadium battery fever rose in response, and with it came the news of continuous consolidation in the industry, like Dalian Rongke taking hands with Panga Vanadium and Titanium, Pu Neng taking hands with HSC, Weilide taking hands with Zhongnuclear Titanium White …… Vanadium battery manufacturers and vanadium raw material companies have taken the opportunity to deeply bind the upstream and downstream, ready for the future dividends of the track.

Immediately after, on November 3, another heavy news release: China’s largest all-vanadium liquid flow battery energy storage system officially opened the tender. Affected by this, on November 4 at midday, the vanadium battery sector index rose 3.69%. Vanadium and titanium shares rose 9.96%, in the nuclear titanium white and other related with the concept of energy storage stocks also appeared to vary degrees of the pull up. Among them, vanadium resources leading enterprise vanadium and titanium shares from the beginning of the year have nearly doubled the share price.

For the rise of the vanadium battery track, Guotai Junan in a recent report optimistic judgment, China’s full vanadium liquid flow battery has been at the eve of large-scale industrialization. And also predicted that the future of vanadium batteries will be ahead of lithium batteries, in the (large-scale) energy storage field dominant position, is expected to 2025 vanadium battery in the field of energy storage penetration is expected to reach 15%-20%.

01. the night before the outbreak

From the second half of this year, the vanadium battery track capital focus effect slowly emerged, smelling the dividends of listed companies have acted.

Long Bai Group in the investor interaction platform revealed the latest progress of vanadium battery layout, “the company’s battery materials research institute is currently conducting research and development of vanadium battery technology, reserve related technology, the future of the company will be based on the vanadium battery market, and actively promote the industrialization of vanadium battery materials.”

Hyde shares also with the majority shareholder Yongtai Group, another listed company Yongtai Energy jointly invested 1 billion yuan to set up De Tai energy storage company, focusing on the layout of the whole industrial chain of vanadium liquid flow battery energy storage.

Soon after its establishment, Detai Energy Storage frequently released investment layout dynamics. First, in the upstream of the industry chain, the acquisition of vanadium mining resources company Dunhuang Huihong Mining Development Co.

The pursuit of the secondary market has also transferred heat to the primary market. Ltd. Asia Pacific sales manager Kuang Zhenren said in a media interview after the heat rose, “not only in terms of product sales, the investment side is also particularly active, non-stop investors to discuss the possibility of financing.”

Yang Linlin, vice chairman of Shanghai Electric Energy Storage Technology Company, said in September that the company had completed a pre-A round of financing of 42.5 million yuan last year and would launch a Series A round this year. Shanghai Electric Energy Storage Technology is a company focused on the vanadium battery business.

According to China Chemical and Physical Power Industry Association data, with the vanadium battery in the field of energy storage gradually open the scale of the process, according to the penetration rate of 10% in electrochemical energy storage, to 2025, the installed capacity of vanadium liquid flow battery can reach about 4GW, the average annual compound growth rate of more than 120%.

02. born nearly 50 years ago, has been in a marginal role

Although the vanadium battery has just started to heat up, the concept has a long history.

As early as 1974, with funding from NASA, Thaller proposed a new type of electrochemical energy storage technology – liquid flow batteries, considered the predecessor of vanadium batteries.

A decade later, it was Professor Marria Kazacos of the University of New South Wales in Australia who developed the vanadium battery, and in 1986, Marria Kazacos was awarded a patent for her vanadium liquid flow battery system, marking the birth of the vanadium battery. Later, the patent was transferred to the University of New South Wales.

After the patent was applied for, the attractive prospect naturally attracted many companies and in 1997 the University of New South Wales resold the patent rights to the Australian mining company Pinnacle, and the University of New South Wales ceased research into vanadium batteries in the V2+/V3 + pair and V4+/V5 + pair in the sulphuric acid system type. However, soon after receiving the patent, Pinnacle discovered that vanadium battery research was far from simple and that it could not make the product on its own, so in 1999 it licensed the patent in Japan and on the African continent to Sumitomo Corporation of Japan and Vanteck Corporation of Canada respectively.

Sumitomo Electric and K ansa I Electric Power have been working together since 1985 to develop vanadium liquid flow batteries. Around 2001, Sumitomo Electric completed several all-vanadium liquid flow battery energy storage systems and used them to power office buildings, factories, as well as wind farms and golf course photovoltaic arrays.

At the same time, Vanteck acquired a 59% stake in Pinnacle, acquired the core patents, and the following year changed its name to VRB Power System, which in 2004 acquired Reliable Power to control the entire North American all-vanadium liquid flow battery market. It became the world’s largest all-vanadium liquid flow battery company at the time.

However, VRB went to market with a vanadium battery concept and no proven products, which was compounded by the financial crisis in 2008, which led to a break in funding and forced the company into liquidation.

VRB’s bankruptcy also opened the eyes of another vanadium battery research and development company, Pu Neng, to an opportunity. In late 2007, in order to maximize financing, Yu and his partner Wu Zhengyu separated the vanadium battery team from the zinc-bromine battery team and financed the company independently. Among them, Yu’s vanadium battery team set up what is now known as Pu Neng.

Shortly after its establishment, Penang received financing from Defeng Jie and De Tong, but at this time, Penang was still a long way from commercialization and needed a breakthrough in core technology, so the sale of VRB was a rare opportunity.

Since then, there has been a steady stream of news on vanadium battery research and development in China, both in research institutes and in the corporate world. For example, on June 11, 2020, the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences announced the successful development of a new generation of low-cost, high-power all-vanadium liquid flow battery reactors; in 2015, Pangao Vanadium and Titanium announced that Pangao vanadium batteries had been mass-produced …… However, in the past decade, vanadium batteries have had small steps of development, but have not ushered in an explosive opportunity, always in a marginal role.

03. from supporting role to support

The recent explosion of the vanadium battery concept, stemming from June 29, the National Energy Board released the “Twenty-five key requirements for the prevention of power production accidents (2022 version) (draft for comment)”. Among them: medium and large electrochemical energy storage power plant shall not choose ternary lithium batteries, and sodium-sulfur batteries, should not choose to use the power battery.

As we all know, in the construction of a large chemical battery storage power station, the primary factor to consider is safety. Compared with other types of batteries, all vanadium liquid battery electrolyte ions exist in an aqueous solution, and will not occur thermal runaway, combustion and explosion, someone has used a sentence to summarize the characteristics of vanadium batteries: that it is safe, but it is installed, then it can be installed, security is not as strong as it. The policy end of the energy storage safety requirements further heightened, just so the vanadium battery has the opportunity to stand out.

In addition to safety, vanadium batteries have one more characteristic: durability. But this feature is also one of the reasons why it has been silent in the past. Compared to lithium batteries, vanadium batteries have a long life, but they are also large, with the same capacity as vanadium batteries, the size of lithium-ion batteries is about 5 times, so in the rapid development of consumer electronics in the past decade or so, vanadium batteries have been silent.

But now, due to the boom in photovoltaic power and wind power, there is a growing demand for large-scale energy storage in all countries. When it comes to large-scale energy storage, the requirements for lifetime are extremely high, while the large size is within the tolerable range. After all, energy storage plants are not something that needs to be moved from time to time, and the performance of vanadium batteries is just right for the energy storage scenario.

To a more macro perspective, China is currently the world’s largest vanadium reserve, which is a unique advantage for the development of domestic vanadium batteries.

In contrast, in 2021, the global reserves of domestic lithium resources accounted for only 7%, production accounted for less than 15%, and the lithium industry chain is more dependent on overseas mineral resources.

Data show that by 2021, domestic vanadium production of more than 50,000 tons, corresponding to the production of vanadium pentoxide of more than 110,000 tons.

Of course, vanadium batteries are not perfect, one of the roadblocks is the initial cost is very high, but also have to rely on “scale” to resolve, but now the industrialization of vanadium batteries in the process there is still a certain amplification risk, the technical path is not yet mature, and the actual large-scale use in the long term there is still a certain distance, to be scaled up still have to rely on time. And also to wait for affordability.

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