Growth in Demand for Vanadium fuelled by Higher Construction Standard
13 August 2010
In the report, Vanadium: Global Industry Markets & Outlook (12th Edition, 2010) from Roskill Information Services the company charts the prospects for this metal which has had a volatile price history. The reports points to an increasing role for China – both in terms of supply and demand. Over the last decade, China has become both the main producer andconsumer of vanadium. In terms of supply, it now accounts for almost 50% ofthe global total and planned expansion over the next two years willconsolidate this position.
Roskill says, “Chinese demand for vanadium grew at 13% pa between2003 and 2009 in line with its burgeoning steel output. Countries with matureeconomies have a much higher intensity of use of vanadium in steels thanindustrialising countries; in 2008, intensity of use in the USA was more thanthree times as great as that in China. Over the next decade one of the maindrivers for growth in vanadium demand will be a combination of strong growthin steel output in BRIC countries and an increasing emphasis in thesecountries on production of high strength low alloy steels with their highervanadium content. Both China and Japan are raising standards for the strengthof rebar steel, which will provide a further driver for growth in demand.”
According to the report world production of vanadium grew by more than 7%pa between 2003 and 2008. Initially, production increases were met by taking up spare capacity atexisting operations but from 2006, capacity had to be increased to meetdemand. Most of this expansion, however, was also at existing mines andplants, most notably in China. The reports predicts that over the next few years additional supply will come from further expansion in China, but also from re-opening the mine andplant at Windimurra, a new mine and plant in Brazil, further expansion ofslag output in Sichuan as well as an increase in by-product output fromuranium processing in the USA and South Africa.
Over 90% of vanadium is added to steel, principally high strength, low alloy steelsin the form of ferrovanadium or vanadium-nitrogen proprietary alloys toincrease strength. At times of high vanadium prices or perceived tightness ofsupply, vanadium is susceptible to some degree of substitution by niobium.The use of niobium in flat products is now well established but vanadium isthe alloy addition of choice for rebar.
Demand for high-strength steels in construction is growing in line with an increased emphasis on life-cycle costs in the construction industry and a growing awareness, in thosecountries prone to earthquakes, that higher construction standards arerequired to prevent mass destruction of buildings, such as occurred in Sichuan province in 2008.
Vanadium is also used in the masteralloys added to titanium, a sectorlargely driven by the demand for titanium alloys in commercial, business andmilitary aircraft. In the short-term, the main area of growth for vanadium inchemical applications is in catalysts for desulphurisation, sulphuric acidand maleic anhydride production. In the longer-term, vanadium consumptioncould be stimulated by the further commercialisation of vanadium redox flowbatteries.