'Peak Oil' far, far away


I did a bit of a deep dive into this.

It looks like a potential workable option for utility scale storage but the 20 yrs use case with no degradation is a bit of a stretch.

As far as I can tell the major downsides are that these batteries are large. 200kw is the size of two large shipping containers. Compare that to the 100 kw in a model S.

The other major downside is that they require maintenance unlike the Li cell option. Because the electolite is either a strong alkali or a strong acid that is pumped round a circuit. Pumps and seals can fail and need to be replaced by a trained individual wearing not insignificant PPE. There are about 2 pumps per 100kw so for a 100mw installation (the size of the utility battery Tesla installed in Australia) that’s about 2000 pumps and many more seals / connections.

When a cell fails. You need a forklift to remove it.

So if you install one of these batteries at utility scale. You will need a huge area and a team of engineers and parts to maintain the battery for the 20 yrs life span.

So if you plug it in it’s unlikely to be working 2 yrs later without significant maintenance.

As far as I’m aware the Tesla utility option is plug and play and maintenance free for 10 yrs then individual units can be replaced. Each unit is made up of 1000’s of individual batteries not unlike AA’s. Each cell is fused so that if a cell fails it is automatically isolated from the stack which accounts for part of the battery degradation over time. Hence it is auto maintained.

The flow batteries appear to solve some problems that the Li solution has but at the same time creating greater problems elsewhere.

Despite having a 10yr life span, the Tesla type Li solution is probably cheaper, more convenient and takes up a fraction of the area required by the Flow batteries over a 20 year life cycle.

Hat tip to @Slasher

See this company offering commercial utility scale Vanadium flow batteries viznenergy.com


Interesting info, thanks TI. I wonder if some additional economies of scale can be achieved on a larger installation, like a smaller number of larger pumps. I guess that would affect modularity. In any case, small pumps can easily achieve MTBFs of 3-5 years which would mean one or two failures per day in your 100 MW installation. That sounds manageable if the pumps are accessible and easily isolated.


I don’t know whether this video has already been posted already (perhaps in the Tesla thread)

I think his figures are a bit optimistic regarding car ownership in rural countries like Ireland, most rural dwellers will not have the patience waiting for a self drive car to reach them in the sticks to drive to the next clump of houses a couple of Kms down the road.
The peak demand and abandonment of expensive oil plays could ring true if the take up of EVs in as high as he forecasts.


Lazard do a levelized unsubsidized cost comparison for storage. Lithium appears to have a slight edge on grid solutions but not much given the rapid growth and development. No comparison for commercial and residential

lazard.com/perspective/leve … rage-2017/
Look back at the 2015 and 2016 reports and see how prices have changed.


I think the main thing he has ignored is that if we are to transition from oil for transport, we have to not only replace all currently generated electricity with solar, but we have to generate the same again to power transport. He says fourteen years. My guess is twice that – let’s call it thirty. If his biennial doubling is correct I am being overly pessimistic – it would only take another two years on top of his estimate to double our output again. But I think the adoption curve will not stay exponential, it will become sigmoid. And it doesn’t allow for any other increase in energy needs. Quite possibly, when we are generating 100% of today’s electricity demand from solar, we could still be using more oil than we do today.

Slightly off topic, just saw a suggestion in a discussion about blockchain of using it as the basis for trading electricity in a smart grid with vehicle batteries providing a lot of the backup storage. That would be a neat synergy.


Where are you getting the 10 year life span from ?

Because its possible that the new cells they are using are twice as good as the cells in the early Model S/X, they could last far longer than 10 years depending on how hard they cycle them for grid storage


China will begin trading oil futures on the Shanghai Futures Exchange later this month. It’s a bit too early to predict the rise of the petro-yuan though.

bloomberg.com/news/articles … cktake-q-a

On this side of the blue ball, WTI scraped past the finish post to end the year a few cents above $60, with Brent above $66.


Wow! Barely a week after New Year, Brent is knocking on the door of $70, and WTI near $63.50 (graph below). Yesterday both benchmarks had their strongest close since December 2014. It’s still hard to see them pushing back much more of the steep drop of 2014 though. With spare capacity in OPEC I imagine the floodgates would open to mop up any demand for $65+ oil, even if that means countries cheating on their quotas.

Meanwhile, here’s an interesting chart from October. Utility-scale battery installations in the US, annual additions and installed capacity. Still fairly trifling at under a gigawatt but it’s the trajectory that counts.


Under-investment in exploration due to the 2014 oil price crash is starting to be felt. 2017 saw the smallest amount of new oil and gas discovery since the 1940s.


I assume PS you are heavily invested in oil?


No, why? I write more in these pages about property and astrophysics, but I’m not heavily invested in those either.


I should have mentioned also that, per the IEA, 2017 also saw energy companies approve the lowest number of new drilling projects for over seventy years.


Not a perjoritive question, just curious.


I own shares in one oil company, which I did as an experimental foray into share trading in general a couple of years back. They tanked instantly. I also have shares in one other energy company (not oil). I’m not an active investor in anything, really.


US shale has certainly come roaring back (c.f. Reuters). Oil output is set to imminently hit the 10 mbpd level, surpassing the all time record set in 1970. The US is only 10% off becoming the biggest producer in the world, which some see happening by the end of next year. Efficiencies are way up compared to before the downturn – a well can be drilled in a week instead of a month, more bores can be drilled from a single platform, and a higher proportion of hydrocarbons in place can be extracted. On the other hand, land and oil services costs are up and the supply of labour is down. Unemployment in some parts of the Texas Permian basin is down to 2.6%. But there are still thousands of “ducks” – drilled uncompleted wells – to be worked through, so output will certainly keep rising for some time.

It is a bit scary that nobody really knows the depletion profile of shale basins. Individual wells deplete quickly but technology continues to improve overall extraction, and the sizes of regional deposits are vast. While the big producers in the Middle East and Russia are still pumping conventional crude, the US shale contribution is now a significant portion of world supply, needed to satisfy the robustly growing demand. Interesting times ahead, as always.


If latest weekly figures are confirmed, the US will have surpassed its nearly 50-year-old all time oil output record. It is looking like 10.26 million barrels per day, higher than the 10.04 mbpd record set in November 1970. Shale output has increased faster than expected, with drillers adding additional rigs last week after the high prices experience in January.

It certainly isn’t looking like plain sailing – oil prices gave back most of the year’s gains this week alongside the stock market uncertainty. The increases in US output and plans for Iran to increase output mean that the oil market could end up oversupplied again, instead of the rebalancing expected for this year.


One factoid I wouldn’t have guessed is that shale only produces about 7% of world supply. Meanwhile declines in other fields continue to stack up year on year. Which is why even deepwater oil – traditionally the most expensive conventional source to exploit – is getting a look in. New lower cost techniques are revitalising this area along with the others.

reuters.com/article/us-oil- … SKCN1FY2AI


The US EIA has put out its latest projections for US shale oil production. The 2018 Annual Energy Outlook is here. Unfortunately the oil projections are so uncertain as to be almost useless. If you believe their reference case, which assumes current estimates of oil in place and current rates of technology-based efficiency gains, US oil production will plateau in the next five years and hit a gentle peak around 2040 before declining. The low case which assumes a low resource estimate and no more efficiency gains shows a peak inside five years with continuous decline through 2050. The high case, with opposite assumptions, shows growth through 2050 to almost twice today’s production levels.


Id image the reserves are there but the tech improvements are limited without using more aggressive chemicals. Which might be ok under trump but not in the medium term.


Recent tech improvement haven’t been much about chemicals. They include drilling more wells from a single pad, drilling longer wells on a single string, dramatically decreasing well completion times, isolating sections of a single well for stimulation using “frack balls” and perforated pipes with retractable sleeves, controlling flow rates to maximise ultimate recovery while using less proppant sand, and so on. All of these happened under Obama, who oversaw the biggest expansion in US oil extraction in the history of the oil business.