With vanadium starting to come into its own as the next great battery metal, QEM couldn’t have picked a better time to announce extraction rates of up to 98% from its Julia Creek Shale project in Queensland.

The result from the acid leaching of samples sourced from the project follows completion of the first round of vanadium extraction testing by GSA Environmental, which involved the roasting of solid material left over after shale oil extraction before it was subjected to acid and alkaline leaching testwork.

And while the acid leaching returned the best result, alkaline leaching also proved promising with 92% vanadium extraction achieved.

That these results were accompanied by significantly lower reagent consumption compared to previous testwork just highlights the value of this testing program by GSAe.

QEM (ASX:QEM) noted the results provide important insights into the extraction of vanadium from its flagship project and that further studies are now underway to optimise the extraction process and determine the most effective method for the recovery of vanadium and other metals.

Final conclusions are expected in April 2023 with the information expected to inform the company’s flow sheet development for Julia Creek Shale.

Excellent results

Managing director Gavin Loyden said the partnership with GSAe is already producing excellent results as proven by the results that have already been achieved.

“Further, the material that we are working with was produced from the QEM pilot, after the hydrocarbons were extracted. This is important to note, as we are now working with material that is representative of what would be produced in any future operation,” he added.

The company is also working with the University of Queensland on potential beneficiation routes that may be suitable to the project along with an update to the mining Scoping Study as well as environmental and water studies.

A unique resource project

The Julia Creek vanadium / oil shale project in northwestern Queensland is a unique world class resource with a best estimate (2C) Contingent Resource of 79 million barrels of oil (along with a less certain high estimate – 3C – resource of 696MMbbl) and a Mineral Resource of 2,850Mt grading 0.31% vanadium pentoxide.

With commodity analysts CRU Group expecting the vanadium market to double from 110,000t in 2022 to 220,000t in 2032 due to its use in vanadium redox flow batteries, the project is expected to be strategically important due to the potential role that vanadium could play in helping Australia achieve its goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

VRFBs are used in large scale, battery storage systems that store excess power from the grid for use during peak demand periods.

The batteries use vanadium-ions in the electrolyte solutions and are considered safer, more scalable, and longer lasting than their lithium counterparts with a lifespan of more than 20 years.

Given this expected growth in demand, developing Julia Creek will feed many Northern Australian supply chains for critical minerals, hydrogen, renewable energy and transport fuels.

It will also help position Australia’s North-West Minerals Province as a world leader in the extraction, production and processing of vanadium.

Local demand for vanadium is expected to be high given that Australia itself is expected to need about 90 gigawatt hours of storage capacity to match the level of generation required to meet the needs of the energy transition, far higher than the current 1.5GWh of storage capacity delivered to date.

QEM itself is a founding member of the Queensland Vanadium Industry Consortium, which is being supported by the Queensland State Government, with funding of $75m for a Critical Minerals multi-user processing facility in Townsville, the first of its kind in Australia.

Julia Creek’s proximity to Townsville is also expected to help Australia build a competitive vanadium export market and provide the ability for VRFB’s to be built in Queensland, using Australian sourced vanadium.

This article was developed in collaboration with QEM Ltd, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.

This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.