Bushveld Minerals and Vanadium Redox Battery market to weather Covid-19 storm

VanadiumThe vanadium redox batteries (VRB) market is expected to make a swift recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a report by MarketsandMarkets

The outbreak of Covid-19 caused widespread disruption to mining, construction, and the global economy, including the battery energy storage system market, which had been growing steadily. The market, however, is set to bounce back quickly, growing at a CAGR of 32.8% and will be worth US$12.1 bn by 2025, as reported by MarketsandMarkets. Vanadium redox batteries are an integral part of this industry, with the market, currently valued at US$234.9mn, and set to reach US$4.8bn by 2027, according to a report by ResearchAndMarkets.

The forecast for recovery is excellent news for South Africa as the country is the world’s third largest global vanadium supplier, contributing 7% of the world’s supply in 2019. Bushveld Minerals has one of the largest, high-grade primary vanadium resource bases in the world, and currently produces 4% of the world’s supply of vanadium from their three mineral assets at Brits, Mokopane and Vametco. 

Speaking to CNBC Africa, Fortune Majapelo, CEO of Bushveld Minerals said, “This pandemic found us in a relatively strong position as a company, able to ride the storm. The outlook for vanadium going forward is still quite positive, so we look forward to the future with a lot of optimism.”

Bushveld Energy, a subsidiary of Bushveld Minerals, develops and distributes vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) technology to a global client base across Africa and the world. There are few industrial level VRFB storage systems but the advantages of this technology have led to many utilities turning to VRFB as the future of battery storage over the more widely used alternative energy storage and battery solutions.

On the future of VRFB, Majapelo added, “We think that the demand drivers are really strong. We are hearing about fiscal stimulus programmes all over the world which are very infrastructure heavy and strong leaning towards accelerating the energy transition. Both of these are very positive in terms of its application to the steel sector as well as its applications in the energy storage sector, which is showing a lot of promise and growing quite significantly. As a company we are well positioned to play into this space.”

In 2018, Bushveld Energy piloted its first VRFB project at the ESKOM Rosherville energy storage test site in southern Johannesburg, which is capable of providing peak power of 120 kw, and 450 kwh of peak energy.

Hybrid solar and battery grid project

Bushveld Energy then announced a new enterprise in 2019, with its intention to build an innovative mini-hybrid solar and battery grid at the Vametco mining facility, which will feed into the mine's internal network. The mini-grid will combine a 4 MWh VRFB energy storage unit and 1 MWh of solar photovoltaic generation to provide stable power to the internal network for up to 16 hours per day and will supply around 8% of the mine’s energy consumption at any one time. Bushveld Energy hopes this project will demonstrate the technical and commercial capability of hybrid-mini grids using solar and VRFB technology and has the potential to be scaled up to provide a larger amount of energy in the future. 

The Vametco VRFB project is being developed with locally-mined vanadium and it is the hope of Bushveld Energy that it will show how VRFB can create more local value for South Africa than any other battery storage technology, which is in line with their aim to transform the African continent by tackling one of its greatest obstacles; a reliable electrical supply. In enhancing awareness of VRFB advantages and providing distributed, utility-scale energy storage solutions and services to the energy sector, Bushveld Energy seeks to reduce operating costs of companies, provide round-the-clock electrical energy supply, and lower investments required by electricity grids from African government and utilities. 

VRFB benefits:

- More durable with no degradation from heavy cycling and a lifespan of more than 20 years.

- 100% depth of discharge

- Non-flammable and no risk of thermal runway.

- Sustainable materials, 100% of Vanadium is re-usable after the system is decommissioned. 

- Only one battery element, unique among flow batteries.

- Fast response time of less than 70 ms.


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