As part of our Green Metals Series, Capital 10X identified vanadium as essential in increasing industrial efficiency and battery storage. A ground-breaking study has crunched the numbers on the energy savings when vanadium is added to steel reinforcement bars. Steel-reinforced concrete is used in construction worldwide.
The UN estimates that the energy consumption of buildings account for 30 – 40% of global energy production. With environmental impact as a major factor considered in industrial projects, the importance of the proper selection of the most efficient construction materials is paramount.
The Carbon Problem
The steel industry is a leading producer of global carbon emissions. Approximately, 2 tons of CO2 are generated for every ton of steel produced (World Steel Association 2018).
Unfortunately, its carbon footprint cannot be easily reduced through technological innovations. It is estimated that about 22.5% of global steel is produced to be used in reinforcement bars for the construction industry. Its been proven that the incorporation of quantities of vanadium produces large increases in yield strength.
Texas AM University has performed the very first sustainability analysis in terms of embodied energy and CO2 as it relates to microalloying steel with vanadium. Embodied energy is the sum of all energy required for production, considered as if that energy was incorporated in the product itself.
The increased strength of vanadium microalloyed steels translates into substantial energy savings compared to lower grade rebar. For example, an up to 40% reduction in the carbon footprint of a RC beam (600 MPa steel).
For a hypothetical building (600 MPa steel), there is a 26.6% reduction in embodied energy and 18.83% reduction in embodied carbon.
The Integral Role of Vanadium
The construction industry is very resource intensive and has a massive associated carbon footprint. Vanadium microalloying’s contribution to steel manufacturing holds considerable promise to reducing the amount of steel required to attain load-bearing capacity for various industrial processes.
The 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China caused a major overhaul of the rebar standards for building construction, paving the way for vanadium to take center stage as a mainstay in industrial activity. The implementation of a new Chinese rebar policy has accrued significant CO2 savings, which can only grow as production technology improves.
Texas AM University’s study underscores the economic (energy savings) and environmental (carbon) value of vanadium mining. Their comprehensive accounting of the cost and benefits of vanadium microalloying displays the undervalued role that vanadium plays in the steel/construction industry.
For example, in 2017 there was an estimated 137 Mt of CO2 savings from the use of rebar/steel applications on a global basis. This is akin to the total CO2 emissions from a small nation like the Philippines in 2017 or, to the planting of 260 million trees.
Vanadium is clearly an integral part of an energy sufficient, sustainable future, and a key element in the Green Industrial Revolution.
Among the three global producers Largo Resources (TSE:LGO) has highest vanadium head grade and concentrate grade. Largo Resources head grade is 1.2% V205, double that of the next closest mine (Bushveld at 0.6% V205).
The opinions provided in this article are those of the author and do not constitute investment advice. Readers should assume that the author and/or employees of Capital 10X hold positions in the company or companies mentioned in the article. For more information, please see our Content Disclaimer.