Protean Energy - Vertically Integrated Vanadium
Protean Energy's strategy is to build a vertically integrated vanadium business, with the upstream including the 490 Mlb V2O5/18.4 Mlb U3O8 Daejon Vanadium-Uranium Deposit in South Korea, and with downstream activities concentrating on the commercialisation of the proprietary V-KOR vanadium redox flow battery stack technology and the development of a high energy density VRFB electrolyte - the VFRB activities are targeted at producing a relatively low cost, high energy transfer product.
Protean holds, through subsidiary KORID Energy, 60% of the proprietary V-KOR technology and the electrolyte process, and through Stonehenge Korea, 50% of Daejon. In both cases the partner in the subsidiary companies is KOSDAQ listed DST Company Ltd (formerly KORID Inc).
The VRFB technology is proceeding towards commercialisation, with a field trial currently underway in Western Australia testing a 25kW/100kWh V-KOR battery stack. The first stage of the trial included the integration of the battery into a micro-grid and was successfully concluded. The second stage, which is currently underway, includes the integration into the Western Power grid, with results due for release later this year.
Also on the battery front, the V-KOR battery stack has been chosen over a number of competitors to be used in a three year, ~A$10 million, 1MW/4MWh battery trial in South Korea, that will include funding of ~A$3 million over three years to KORID Energy.
To round out the battery side, V-KOR has announced that it has successfully developed a new generation V2O5 electrolyte, with an improvement in energy density of up to 25%. Given the cost of electrolytes, energy density is a key factor in decreasing battery costs, as well as decreasing battery footprints due to the need for smaller electrolyte tanks. The complements the targeted relatively low cost battery stacks.
The Daejon deposit, with its significant contained vanadium and uranium, is potentially a strategic asset, with the resources that have the potential to supply a significant part of Korea's annual vanadium and uranium needs, all of which are currently imported. Having recently updated the resource to 76 Mt @ 3,000ppm V2O5 and 110 ppm U3O8, the Company is now concentrating on metallurgical test work.
An agreement has recently been reached with the Korean Institute of Geoscience and Minerals (“KIGAM”). including the signing of a technology transfer agreement for vanadium-bearing black shale processing intellectual property (“IP”), and being granted access to a 1.2 tph pilot scale black shale processing plant for upcoming metallurgical test work.
A large amount of historical work has been completed on the treatment of the black shales, with this largely concentrating on the readily leachable uranium, however this work has also resulted in a leach process that can extract the more difficult vanadium. Success in developing a commercially viable processing route, particularly for vanadium, is key to the advancement of Daejon.
The Company is cashed up - as at June 30, 2018, there was A$2.42 million in the bank, there is ~A$1,66 million in DST shares, with this rounded out by the expected ~A$3 million funding for KORID during the three year battery trial.
With an EV of only ~A$3.2 million Protean is highly leveraged to success in any of its two main streams, and is well positioned to take advantage of the forecast strong future for vanadium and VRFBs. To read our note on Protean please follow the link.
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Mark is a Senior Resources Analyst for Independent Investment Research, with a focus on junior and mid-cap listed resources stocks. With over 10 years as an analyst, following on from 17 years as a geologist, he has a good insight into the sector.