Brisbane battery factory to put state at forefront of renewables race

Queensland-based Vecco Group will spend up to $25 million building Australia’s first vanadium battery plant in Brisbane.

Apr 16, 2021, updated Apr 16, 2021
Vecco's batteries would supply renewable energy projects.

Vecco's batteries would supply renewable energy projects.

It has struck a deal with China’s Shanghai Electric – one of the largest electrical equipment manufacturing companies in China – for an initial off-take of vanadium electrolytes, which is the storage medium for the battery.

Vecco managing director Thomas Northcott said the batteries were normally manufactured in China but transport costs made a Brisbane facility cost-competitive.

He said Vecco also had a vanadium mining project at Julia Creek which was at the pre-feasibility stage. If it developed the mine it would add to the company’s cost advantage.

“We call it (Julia Creek) the Pilbara for vanadium,” Northcott said.

The batteries would be sold to the renewable energy sector, the emerging hydrogen sector as well as large-scale industrial electricity users.

“This project will help make Australia a leader in green energy manufacturing capability,” Northcott said.

“We are excited to be capturing the first-mover advantage in Australia and South East Asia for what is a rapidly growing market for large-scale renewable energy storage,” Northcott said.

“Demand is currently strong and there is significant future demand supplying large, long-duration vanadium batteries to support green hydrogen projects around Australia.

“It’s really a matter of us building into a market that is already established with the solar and wind farms. They now have a real need for this with daytime power prices being so low we need to shift that into the nighttime load.”

He said the consumer market for rechargeable batteries was still in the hands of lithium products but there was a market of “many gigawatts’’ for vanadium flow batteries in the solar and wind farms as well as big industrial electricity users.

Vanadium flow batteries last for 25 years, had no capacity degradation and had a low environmental footprint as the electrolyte was nearly 100 per cent recyclable.

Northcott said the Julia Creek resource was about 40km from one being studied by QEM, but was a shallower ore body and higher grade. Until the company develops the mine it will take an imported supply to feed the Brisbane facility.

The Julia Creek region has already attracted several companies because of the vast resource, but also because of its purity.

Northcott said there was also a likelihood the Vecco would be able to produce high purity alumina from the resource.

“It’s looking more likely that we will have dual processing streams of vanadium and high purity alumina,” he said.

Vecco is also carrying out a pre-IPO to raise $5 million and is aiming at a full IPO next year.

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