Techno-Economic Assessment for Vanadium Redox Flow Battery Project
Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries (VRFBs) were first invented almost fifty years ago but are little known outside the power systems industry.
They use liquid electrolytes pumped through an electrical cell, with both electrolytes being different valences of vanadium ion in a salt solution. Their advantages are that they are safe, easily scaled by simply increasing the size of the electrolyte tank, and degrade much more slowly than other battery types; their disadvantages are that they are bulky, have moving parts (the pumps), and have lower energy density than Lithium ion.
With the original patents have expired, our client wished to explore whether there was an economic case for investing in a manufacturing facility in the UK. Various subsidiary patents had been filed over the years making improvements to the chemistry of the system and these were still in force, so the question was whether the original, unmodified concept still provided a commercially viable proposition.
Element Digital Engineering recognized that a number of questions needed to be addressed:
- What was the extent of patent coverage around the various variants of the VRFB concept and what was the most efficient system that was not currently covered?
- What was the market potential for the device, initially within the UK and then within Europe?
- What were the commercial competitors, both within the VRFB market and then the alternative technologies addressing the same market?
- What would the outline costs be of establishing a manufacturing facility, and the costs of the consumables and components for the final system?
The intention would be to move to a more detailed concept study for a manufacturing facility once the strength of the market and the viability of the technology had been established.
Each of the issues captured above was addressed by a detailed desktop research activity, drawing heavily upon our experience and knowledge of the power industry. We quickly established that the patents held were international and some of the early enhancements were now also out of patent coverage.
There was one UK VRFB manufacturer already, but operating within a tightly targeted market scope that allowed space for another entrant. Potential market applications that were not being exploited were identified, with simple outline net present value calculations being used to demonstrate that such applications were commercially viable. Finally, an initial assessment of manufacturing requirements was made, focusing on the space required, supply chain, any regulatory issues, and equipment costs.
We prepared a detailed report that concluded that, at the time, there was a good case for further investment as VRFBs offered a lower-cost solution to industrial or local energy storage than Lithium-ion or other competing technologies.
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