Vanadium player Vecco Group is weighing up sites for its planned battery electrolyte manufacturing plant, with options in Townsville and south-east Queensland as it tracks towards a 2022 start date. Vecco Group managing director Thomas Northcott said a decision was likely to be made in the first quarter of next year, with the initial stage of development expected to cost about $3.5 million.
The company holds the Debella vanadium and HPA (high purity alumina) project north of Julia Creek in North-West Queensland. It plans to bring the electrolyte plant online before mining begins at that site.
The Brisbane-based group aims to be a first mover in the vanadium battery electrolyte manufacturing space in Australia and south east Asia, establishing an integrated supply chain from the Debella mining operation through to battery production. Vanadium flow batteries last for 25 years, have no capacity degradation and have a low environmental footprint as the electrolyte is nearly 100 per cent recyclable.
“When we are in operation, we’ll take the vanadium powder from our mine, put it through our electrolyte manufacturing plant and then we’ll have a battery electrolyte for sale,” Mr Northcott said. “In the meantime, we’ll be using another source of vanadium to feed that plant as we start to make the product for battery projects towards the end of next year.\
“We’re taking a unique approach where we are also undertaking a midstream processing stage to produce the battery electrolyte. “We don’t think that just selling the vanadium powder overseas is the best way to go. There’s an opportunity in Queensland to mine the vanadium, manufacture a vanadium electrolyte product for large-scale batteries, and then deploy those batteries into projects in Queensland as part of the electricity network. “So there are really three main parts to this new industry that we’re working on and starting with the midstream and the downstream ends so that we’ve got a domestic market for our mine when it comes online.”
The State Government this week announced plans to build a common-user vanadium processing facility in Townsville to help mining proponents take their projects forward. Mr Northcott, whose firm is part of the Queensland Vanadium Consortium, said the development of that demonstration plant would help expedite projects like Debella and Multicom’s Saint Elmo project at Julia Creek.
“What they’re going to build is a demonstration-sized plant of the minerals processing infrastructure that we’ll use on the mine sites,” he said.
“That will then enable us to complete our feasibility studies quicker and produce sufficient samples to send off to offtakers, or in our case use it for the production of electrolyte samples for our own testing.” The electrolyte plant that Vecco plans to build in mid-2022 would be the first of its kind in Australia. “So we’re leading this new technology and the development of it in Australia,” Mr Northcott said.
“We want to make sure that it’s in a region where we can operate the facility and supply its product into the end market. “Townsville might be a good location for it as would Brisbane. So we’ve still got a bit of work to go to decide which is going to be the best location.”
Vecco Group has signed an agreement with UK technology company C-Tech Innovation (C-Tech) to design and build the planned Queensland vanadium electrolyte plant. The first stage would comprise a 2 million litre/annum facility based on C-Tech’s proprietary electrochemical dissolution process. It is planned to scale up from a 30MWh per annum facility to a $30 million facility producing about 300MWh. Mr Northcott said Vecco was continuing work to line up binding contracts to supply electrolyte for large-scale vanadium batteries.