State puts vanadium tech to test as ‘Australian first’ manufacturing plant opened

Critical energy minerals company Vecco Group has celebrated the official opening of Australia’s first commercial-scale vanadium battery electrolyte manufacturing facility in Townsville by announcing it has secured a contract to provide Energy Queensland with the state’s first grid-scale vanadium flow battery.

Brisbane-based Vecco Group will team with Japanese manufacturer Sumitomo Electric to supply state government-owned Energy Queensland with a 250 kW/750 kWh vanadium flow battery that will be connected to the grid in the state’s south-east as part of a trial of the technology.

Energy Queensland said the battery, to be installed later this year at its depot at Berrinba in Brisbane’s south, will be used to test the viability of vanadium flow battery technology to provide the medium- and long-duration storage required for the state to meet its renewable energy commitments.

Queensland’s renewable energy targets[2] – which rise to 80% by 2035 – call for an additional 22 GW of new wind and solar projects by 2035, supported by at least 12 GW of storage, firming and dispatchable technologies including grid-scale batteries.

Energy Queensland said it will also work with Vecco to assess the benefits and technical considerations for connecting more vanadium flow batteries to the grid as the state’s electricity system shifts from coal-fired generation to renewables.

Vecco Managing Director Tom Northcott said the technology will be critical to supporting the Queensland energy transition noting vanadium flow batteries, which store energy in a non-flammable, liquid electrolyte, have lower rates of degradation than the lithium-ion batteries that dominate the market, and are almost 100% recyclable.

“Vanadium flow batteries will play a significant role in the Queensland SuperGrid and we expect to see deployments of this proven technology accelerate as the local supply chain expands,” he said.

Vecco Group Managing Director Tom Northcott, centre, shows Energy Queensland Executive General Manager Michael Dart and Queensland Energy Minister Mick de Brenni around the new manufacturing facility.

Image: Energy Queensland

Vecco has contracted Sumitomo[3] to supply the battery hardware for the Berrinba battery and the vanadium electrolyte will be produced at Vecco’s new $26 million (USD 17.58 million) vanadium electrolyte manufacturing facility in the north Queensland city of Townsville.

Northcott said the facility is the first commercial-scale vanadium battery electrolyte manufacturing plant in Australia and will produce high-grade vanadium electrolyte, opening up downstream manufacturing opportunities and creating a new link in the pit to grid battery supply chain.

“This facility commences operations this week making battery electrolyte for large-scale vanadium flow batteries, such as the battery we are delivering for Energex in partnership with Sumitomo,” he said. “Within two years, we will be mining vanadium, processing vanadium and manufacturing vanadium batteries in Queensland which will create over 500 regional jobs.”

The plant will initially be capable of producing nine megalitres of electrolyte per year, enough to support 175 MWh of energy storage capacity annually before scaling up to 350 MWh.

Vanadium used in production will initially be imported, but the new manufacturing facility will also support the development of Vecco’s Debella Critical Minerals Mine, located near Julia Creek, about 650 kilometres west of Townsville. The Debella project is expected to begin production in 2024 and is forecast to produce 5,500 tonnes of vanadium pentoxide and 2,000 tonnes of high purity alumina per year.

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