A crucial part of the future of renewable, clean energy, Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries are a type of rechargeable battery that is particularly suited for community-scale green energy storage.
VRFB is just one of the many uses of vanadium, which can be extracted along with other metals from titanium dioxide waste, power station ash and refinery residues.
Today, we’re taking a closer look at some of the key benefits of VRFB and how they could be the answer to cleaner, greener and sustainable energy.
How does a VRFB work?
The batteries use vanadium ions in particular oxidation states to store chemical potential energy, and by altering the vanadium between oxidation states, they release some of this energy as electricity.
As excess electricity is being generated, VRFBs use the opposite mechanism to store electricity. The batteries are particularly suitable for green energy storage into a power grid or ‘behind the meter’ high power users.
But, how does this tie in with renewable energy?
A core feature of VRFB that helps it stand out from other batteries is its decades-long operating life.
As the vanadium electrolyte in different states is stored in separate parts of the battery – separated by a proton exchange membrane – energy can flow between the electrolyte on either side without degradation of the material.
In short, this means that there’s no chemical change and allows the battery to operate indefinitely without losing activity.
A safe option.
VRFBs are also less likely to overheat and catch fire than traditional batteries, because 50% of the electrolyte is made from water, making it non-flammable.
So, even in cases of damage, intense heat, high pressure or short-circuiting, the battery is unlikely to catch fire. Of course, some heat may be discharged from a VRFB, but not at a level that is unsafe.
Can be discharged for a long time.
As part of a wider energy mix, VRFBs can provide large-scale energy to multiple users over hours of demand, without the need for large banks of cells.
As there is no degradation, 100% of the vanadium can be reused once the battery is removed. This has led to some discussion in the industry about leasing arrangements for the material, rather than a pure sale, to reduce upfront battery costs.
A key part of our renewable future.
While lithium-based batteries are well suited to consumer electronics and electric vehicles, their lifetimes can be limited. As discussed earlier, VRFBs charge and discharge cycles without wearing out. This is an important factor when matching a varied set of energy demands.
By relying on a vanadium electrolyte solution held in storage tanks, vanadium redox flow batteries can store energy from renewable sources, including solar, wind or wave power, and release it when required.
At GSAe, our core technology supports this future by recovering vanadium from ‘secondary sources’, such as refinery residues (heavy ends, vacuum residue catalysts etc), ash created in oil-fired power stations and desalination plants, and TiO2 waste.
This is a more environmentally-beneficial method to traditional means as it recovers the vanadium (and other metals) from a source that has already been extracted and would otherwise be wasted in landfill. This does not replace other methods of production in terms of scale, but adds to and improves raw material usage.
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Meet our Managing Director Michael Grimley. Born in Scunthorpe, Michael has grown up with a keen interest in science and technology. Now, he leads the team at GSAe by day, while spending his spare time with his family, playing rugby, squash and football.
For National Boss Day, we caught up with him to find out more about his role at GSAe.
What first interested you in chemical/process engineering?
In my mid-teens, I did some work experience in chemistry labs as a metallurgist carrying out non-destructive testing and CAD operating. It was around this time that I quickly realised that the only people I knew who still retained a sense of job fulfilment, alongside an interest in what they were doing and a desire to improve the environment – broadly speaking – engineers.
My father is a chemical engineer, and I had met a lot of his colleagues, so I saw a broad set of opportunities. It seemed like a good idea when I was looking to go to university to choose something that would be fulfilling through my whole working life.
What’s an average day look like for the Managing Director of GSA?
I enjoy my ability to retain a technical role within the company.
Mostly, this is providing technical authority type observations and directing the projects at a high level, and then input to the research and development programme that we have at our laboratories in Lincoln.
Sometimes, I’m able to get a proper look at elements because of particular experience from my project background, which is also rewarding. If I can do that 50% of my time then I’m happy.
The other 50% tends to be liaising with clients, potential clients and partners about contracts and business opportunities that we are pursuing around the world.
There’s also the strategic work within the executive management team looking at cash flow, personnel and the laboratories. If I could add more % then I would as there is an ever-expanding demand for time, due to telecommunications and the geographic spread of our business opportunities.
What do you do outside of the office?
I look after my wife, children, house, garden and – very occasionally – myself; in that order!
What’s your favourite thing about the job?
Honestly, I enjoy the fact that the work we do could/should and will make a difference to the environment, given the unavoidable truth that we are – as a planet – reliant on power.
What’s your least favourite thing about the job?
Travel can be a burden. Although I enjoy visiting new countries, it takes you away from what’s important. Video- and teleconferencing do make a massive improvement to this, but sometimes, you just have to get on a plane and work away from home.
If you didn’t go down this career path, what would you see yourself doing instead?
There are two answers here really – at the time I made my choices I was very keen on being a barrister. However, if I were allowed to choose again and it had to be different, then I think I would have liked to be a teacher in subjects I enjoy such as history and maths.
Want to find out more about what we do? Speak with Michael today.
GSAe Ltd has been awarded a contract for Technical Engineering Support for the relocation of a manufacturing process between UK locations.
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GSAe Ltd have signed a Memorandum of understanding with the Saudi Electricity company.
The intention of the MOU is to study and evaluate the development and localization in the KSA of a Fly Ash treatment Facility.
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GSA E ltd are pleased to welcome our new KTP Associate, Mengnan Wang.
Mengnan has joined us on a two year KTP programme through a joint collaboration with Lincoln University.
Mengnan will be carrying out further R&D work at our new laboratory facility at Boole Technology Centre Lincoln.
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Global metals recovery specialist refines process to enable more sustainable and less polluting Vanadium recovery, aided by unique academic collaboration.
Increasingly, heavier sourer Crude oils and heavy fuel oils are being used as feed sources for refineries, power plants, boiler and other combustion uses throughout the world. These heavier materials contain high amounts of metal impurities which concentrate in refinery residues and in combustion ashes. The concentration of metals in crude oils can vary from a few to over 1,000 parts per million. On disposal, these metals pose a potential environmental hazard if landfilled particularly as some are toxic such as some mutagenic Vanadium salts. Moreover, metals from primary deposits are increasingly scarce. Recovery of metals from these residues therefore satisfies both environmental and economic needs by providing more sustainable sources.
Vanadium is an important metal and is increasingly being developed for use in Vanadium flow batteries to store power generated by sources such as wind.
In collaboration with the University of Lincoln, GSA Environmental Ltd has taken its proprietary technology and further optimised the recovery and the purity of Vanadium species obtained from ashes and residues.
“The quality of Vanadium demanded by the renewables industry is high and we are pleased that we have been able to develop suitable processes in our Kilo lab to meet those requirements” commented Dr Tony Flinn, Technical Consultant.
“This helps the environment in two obvious ways” said MD Michael Grimley, “Firstly, we use a natural source of the metal and secondly, prevent it from being landfilled and acting as a potential pollutant”.
For further information contact Managing Director Michael Grimley:
GSA Environmental Ltd
7 Market Place