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Eamon Keane  

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  • Algae Biofuels - Not Sustainable [View article]
    I should have put it clearer, but maximum EROI is on the y axis and the number of exajoules produced by each source is on the y axis, so PV is indeed about 5.

    I've read the algae industry response and am unpersuaded by their arguments. They're being a bit disingenuous, actually, because the author addresses much of what they're saying in the paper. Their main contentions are that they'll get the CO2 from power plants and get the nutrients from farms or wastewater. I've outlined the difficulties with that. If they want to produce a counter LCA, they're more than welcome, and hopefully they give the author their so called up to date information. It obviously eluded the DOE when they prepared their comprehensive review of the literature in June 2009.
    Jan 28, 2010. 11:47 AM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Algae Biofuels - Not Sustainable [View article]
    You're right, as with hydrogen and ethanol and cellulosic ethanol, do we really have to go blindly down the road of doing research for a decade only to conclude what was obvious from the outset? Can't we do a life cycle analysis before we start, I mean the laws of thermodynamics tend to be fairly consistent!
    Jan 28, 2010. 11:02 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Algae Biofuels - Not Sustainable [View article]
    Sorry, I should have included a link to that. Here it is ( It represents a range of EROI based on varying conditions and uncertain data.
    Jan 28, 2010. 10:27 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Algae Biofuels - Not Sustainable [View article]
    Thanks ferdinand, I think Exxon investing is about the most contrarian indicator I can think of. Weren't the oil companies backing/ still are backing hydrogen?!
    Jan 28, 2010. 10:25 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Algae Biofuels - Not Sustainable [View article]
    thank longoil, Dmitrov was ahead of the game back in 2007. That analysis is for photobioreactors, which are absurd on their face. Take Origin Oil's invention ( which shows them actually shining generated light onto the algae. Where do these people think the energy for the light comes from?
    Jan 28, 2010. 10:24 AM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Taking Stock of Phosphorus and Biofuels [View article]
    Hi Mentor, thanks for the information, it's great to have someone so knowledgeable. I have a couple of questions.

    So Moroccan reserves are still marketable quality without the need for benefication?

    Does the industry generally agree that a phosphate shortage is on the horizon?

    Moroccan production is currently about 30Mt/yr. Where does OCP plan to be by 2020 and 2030?

    I notice one of your other comments talked about a cartel. Would you envisage a phosphate cartel if the world develops a phosphate shortage?
    Jan 25, 2010. 10:39 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Nuclear Power: Too Costly to Revive [View article]
    Natural gas actually has half the CO2 emissions of coal. People living near these new hydro-frac natural gas wells are also concerned about leakage into the local water supply. Water mixed with 296 chemicals is pumped at very high pressures underground to fracture the rock to allow the natural gas to flow.

    Natural gas might have potential, and I know Dr. Chu has commissioned a report on its use for transport. Is there any existing reports/discussion you could point me toward?
    Jan 22, 2010. 10:21 AM | 5 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi: Day One [View article]
    I'm inclined to agree with robdoc, extensive sources are not required, but one up to date link is helpful.

    I'd be wary of using AWEA as a reference, although their information is generally quite good. I'm fully with you on offshore wind, Davewmart, it makes exactly no sense when there is still untapped potential onshore.

    If we take the December 2009 forecast for 2020 by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ( (slide 29) here's how the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) stacks up (2008 $/MWh):

    Wind - $91 + $7.5 integration cost = $98.5
    Natural Gas CCGT - $105
    Solar Thermal - $184
    Solar PV - $306

    The assumptions are in the slideshow. What is a bit irksome is when many dismiss onshore wind as too expensive. Even when you add in the integration costs (extra transmission, backup reserve) it still stacks up.
    Jan 19, 2010. 01:58 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • This Week in Solar: The Race to Grid Parity [View article]
    I was at an energy storage presentation by Dr Paul Denholm from NREL in November where he said that below 20% wind and solar the challenges were (

    "– Challenges are unit commitment, regulation and load
    – Integration costs are modest (typically less than $5/MWh)"

    20% is about 300GW of wind and solar, there's not much danger of going over that anytime soon.
    Jan 17, 2010. 11:40 AM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Taking Stock of Phosphorus and Biofuels [View article]
    Cheers, Branson. I didn't explore the full NPK dynamic but I got the impression P was the limiting condition. You need sulfur for P so there might be an issue there.

    Got some more figures for additional capacity. There's a good Nov '08 presentation from British Sulfur Consultants here (

    China - 16Mt/yr
    Morocco - 10Mt/yr
    Kazakhstan - 4.5Mt/yr
    Brazil - 4.5Mt/yr
    Russia - 2 Mt/yr
    Algeria - 1.5Mt/yr
    Tunisia - 1Mt/yr
    Finland - 0.45Mt/yr

    That's loads, an extra 18 onto the 40 above for 58. Some of that capacity is speculative and it won't all come to fruition but it's easily enough until 2020. There still appears to be plenty of slack in China and Morocco which is good news. I'm not sure what dynamics have caused US production to decline while Morocco & China continue to increase, possibly they still have good quality ore or else less restrictions on water/enviromental stuff.

    BMO Capital Markets did a Jan 11 outlook for phosphate here (

    "Longer-term though, we believe fob rock pricing of US$125/t ($150/t cfr India) is not unreasonable, and is in line with the latest contract pricing of US$140–$145/t cfr."

    Still 3.5 times what it was a few years ago, but at this level it is incentivising new production. Longer term out to 2030 I'd wonder if some of Morocco's & China's existing mines would experience the depletion and decline that Florida's has.
    Jan 17, 2010. 11:09 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Taking Stock of Phosphorus and Biofuels [View article]
    Thanks. I didn't do a full survey of what's going to come online but, you're right, they're going to have 5Mt/yr phosphate rock (3Mt/yr DAP).
    If you take Mosaic's projection of 2.25% growth out to 2020, you need to find 45Mt/yr phosphate rock.

    Saudi Arabia - 5Mt/yr
    Widespread Porfolio Chatham Rise - 1Mt/yr looks like
    Minemakers Wonorrah - 3Mt/yr
    Minemakers Namibia - 3Mt/yr
    Vietnam have a lot of 2nd and 3rd grade ore so they're investing a lot in upgrading facilities. They were at 1Mt/yr in 05. Let's give them 2Mt/yr more.
    Peru - 4Mt/yr
    US - based on USGS it looks like it'll be flat at best
    China - I can't find any info on their expansion plan, but to the extent they do I imagine it will largely be for domestic consumption
    Morocco - can't find figures

    I'm sure there's others, but a tally of that gives 18Mt/yr, which should be enough until 2015 anyway. By 2030 at 2.25% growth you need to have 90Mt/yr additional capacity. I reckon things get interesting around 2030. High prices can cause demand destruction, and farmers can mine the soil of phosphorus for a couple of years, but they simply won't get the yield if they don't put fresh phoshporus down.

    An interesting excerpt from Mosaic's Jan 6 earnings transcript:

    "The phosphate market is expected to remain tight especially during the first half of 2010. Producer stocks are extremely low levels today and reports indicate that many producers have committed production for the next 60 to 90 days."
    Jan 15, 2010. 10:41 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Taking Stock of Phosphorus and Biofuels [View article]
    Thanks guys. Yeah, this issue has definitely been under the radar. I expect it should get more attention in the year ahead. For example the Global Phosphorus Research Initiative ( is holding a workshop in February. Japan is also aware of the issue, hence its efforts to extract phosphorus from wastewater.

    You're right, Raymond, transport plays a significant part. That's part of Minemaker's justification for the Chatham Rise project, because New Zealand and Australia currently have the phosphate rock shipped all the way from Morocco.

    The US also actually imports 3Mt from Morocco (9% of total consumption). I'm sure there's future projections for supply in a report somewhere, which I'd love to see, but it doesn't look like the US is going to increase its output. The US does have some discretion, though, because you export some DAP (1.7Mt) to India and there's also a lot of embedded phosphorus in your grain exports.

    When prices shot up in 2008, China slapped a prohibitive 135% tariff on phosphorus exports, so it's clear that China's production isn't open to the highest bidder. American phosphate will naturally go to American farmers, but they can't expect to be insulated too much from the prevailing price - Mosaic could simply ship the stuff in Florida somewhere else.

    This leaves Morocco as the absolute kingmaker. Their interest is not in maximising capacity, it's in maximising profit. Still I'd like to know what the quality of their remaining ore is. They're developing a plant to process low grade material so that isn't the best of indicators ( The people who most need to worry are India and Pakistan. We can afford to pay high prices, the Indian and Pakistani farmers can't, necessarily. There were riots in 2008 at the prices.

    There's a very interesting world fertilizer trade flow map from the International Fertilizer Association here (

    One other point to note was that in 2008 and 2009 as well, I believe, American farmers didn't actually purchase the usual amount of phosphorus. That's because as western soils have been fertilized so long, they can actually go 1 or 2 seasons without fertilizer, but on the third they will notice a 20% drop in yield.
    Jan 14, 2010. 10:31 PM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Lithium-Ion Batteries and Electric Vehicles: Upgrading the Storm Watch to Storm Warning [View article]
    It's difficult to tell from that information - peak efficiency isn't that revealing since all that matters is the average efficiency which depends on the driving cycle. Still, though, this goes to show that there are viable alternatives to PM. Although it might take a supply shock to get automakers to switch, they will surely change to AC if they can't get rare earths.
    Jan 4, 2010. 05:43 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Lithium-Ion Batteries and Electric Vehicles: Upgrading the Storm Watch to Storm Warning [View article]
    Jack, that's great news that Nissan have developed a non HREE PM motor which is a reminder that we shouldn't discount technological innovation in our analyses. Hopefully their technology can be replicated in other arenas (assuming they will license it). Have you heard of any possibilities for replacing neodymium?

    I am appreciative of your expertise having worked for Ford and accept that in many cases PM can be incrementally more efficient than AC. However if demand hits the PM supply wall, would you not even countenance a switch to a marginally less efficient technology?
    Jan 4, 2010. 01:02 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Lithium-Ion Batteries and Electric Vehicles: Upgrading the Storm Watch to Storm Warning [View article]
    That DOE funding report is disappointing if the figures of $800-$1200/kWh are up to date. If that is the case, there's a lot of disinformation about.

    I think your storm warning II needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. There is a very clear alternative for GEV motors with no rare earths: the AC induction motor. Car designers have a lot of variables to take into account and so some go for PM motors and some go for AC. For PHEVs, although it depends on driving cycle, etc, a PM motor can be on average 2% more efficient than an AC motor.

    Now consider Toyota with an order for 5,000 Priuses. If they can't source the rare earths do they (a) close the Prius line of cars or (b) re-engineer it to accept AC?

    The same thinking goes for wind turbines. There are something like 100,000 wind turbines in the world, the vast preponderance of which don't use PM. The latest design trend has been to use PM. Vestas' next prototype uses PM however they say they are looking at supply constraints. If Vestas are faced with an order of 100MW of wind turbines and they can't get a delivery of NdFeB from China, they are of course going to supply the old style of wind turbines, even if they are marginally more inefficient.

    One thing about the RE thing to bear in mind is that China is not necessarily contriving to keep all RE-derived material in China. Its main goal is to get companies to set up their manufacturing base in China. The RE end product still leaves China for western cars etc. This introduces sovereign risk for companies and the possibility of trade secrets being stolen, but they still have the option.
    Jan 4, 2010. 11:20 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment