Major VRFB Electrolyte Advance at X GROUP Technologies
The vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) is an attractive alternative to lead acid or lithium battery technologies, offering higher energy capacity better suited for static storage at larger scales.
Vanadium batteries provide extended service life, no discernible degradation of electrodes or electrolytes after thousands of rapid charge-discharge cycles, superior safety from no combustibles and good operability across a wide range of ambient temperatures. Permitting is simplified as vanadium electrolyte is classified as a non-toxic fluid per UN regulations. VRFB has a low incremental cost for increased storage duration and the vanadium contained is completely reusable and recyclable.
A remaining obstacle to widespread adoption of VRFB is the price volatility from supply-demand cycles of ferro alloys.
X GROUP is refining a process for producing battery grade electrolyte directly off its ion exchange platform. The most important differentiator is a high-purity vanadyl sulphate (V4+) solution at elevated concentrations, produced in a liquid-only flowsheet. This eliminates several costly steps, establishing a strong competitive advantage over conventional methods, aiming for a 50% cost reduction. Early estimates indicate a cost of vanadium contained at less than $3.50/lb V2O5.
This X GROUP process has advanced through several important milestones:
2020 - Confirmation of ion exchange chromatography whereby vanadium is selectively adsorbed from dilute solutions, achieving eluates of >99.5% purity on metal oxide basis. Read more:
2021 - Confirmation of favourable desorption economics in a low-cost ion exchange stripping circuit.
2022 – A breakthrough development of novel reductive desorption, whereby vanadyl sulphate is produced at 3 molar concentrations and 99.5% metal oxide purity.
2023 – Further refinement of reductive desorption, adding precipitation of hydrated vanadium dioxide of 99.8% metal oxide purity.
Ongoing work is focused on electrolytic reduction of vanadyl sulphate, aiming for the 50/50 ratio of V3+ and V4+ speciation required for preparation of battery-ready VRFB electrolyte.
It is expected that these process refinements, together with independent review, will be finalised by mid-2023 whereafter commercial rollout may follow.