Vanadium has been touted as a wonder metal, with properties that enable it to strengthen steel while making it lighter, transfer electricity without transferring heat, and exist in different states in electrolyte solution, enabling its use in vanadium redox flow batteries.
STEEL REMAINS THE primary market driver for vanadium, and global demand is growing due to its increased use in structural steels and rebar. There is currently a disparity between supply and demand, with the latter outstripping the former and predicted to continue on this trajectory until new supply comes into the market.
The causes of the market imbalance are mainly due to reduced supply from South Africa, as several large suppliers permanently shut down operations due to an extended period of low prices between 2010 and 2015, coupled with changes in regulations in China, effectively halting vanadium mining operations due to the high carbon emissions produced during processing.
In addition to this, China has launched new standards for steel rebar, which come into full effect later this year. These standards will increase demand for vanadium, requiring steel manufacturers to increase the vanadium content of the structural steel they produce in China. The changes to the standards have arisen as a result of structurally unsound buildings being constructed in the country, endangering lives, particularly those in earthquake-prone areas.