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Eamon Keane

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  • Why Natural Gas Vehicles Won't Decrease Oil Dependence, Part I [View article]
    Thanks flatiron, good input. In the interests of brevity I kept this article to the broad first order effects. You know how short people's attention spans are! If you want a long article, you can have a look at my first one:

    Taking stock of phosphorus and biofuels (
    Feb 8 03:02 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Natural Gas Vehicles Won't Decrease Oil Dependence, Part II [View article]
    Old Wizard, if you could furnish me with a link for the CEO of Range Resources, that would be great.

    As I've mentioned above, though, it's quite difficult to take oil and gas companies' word about their reserves, resources, costs or anything else for that matter given their horrific track record.
    Feb 8 02:49 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why Natural Gas Vehicles Won't Decrease Oil Dependence, Part I [View article]
    Did you follow the link? Natural Gas Vehicles for America ( state:

    "There are over 1,100 NGV fueling stations in the U.S. - over half are available for public use."

    So about 550 are for public use, the others are for private use by private fleets.
    I wasn't talking about the individual natural gas nodes. I'm aware the Phill will be back on the market this year and I'll get to that in the next article.
    Feb 7 09:50 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Algae Biofuels - Not Sustainable [View article]
    This is fairly amusing, I got an email, appended below, from a PR company hired by Origin Oil trying to limit the fallout from this Virginia LCA.

    Credit to Origin Oil, they are probably one of the more enlightened algae companies. At least they don't claim yields per acre that defy the laws of physics like so many other companies.

    The email mentions a lifecycle analysis performed by Origin Oil which is here ( However it's not an LCA at all, there's no energy budget, no CO2 budget, it's more a financial analysis.

    Also, it should be borne in mind that Origin Oil are also proferring the ridiculous photobioreactor. Fine for high value nutraceuticals, perhaps, but energetically illiterate for biofuels.


    Below is news from OriginOil, Inc as it relates to the recent study and controversy that contends algae-based biodiesel is no more environmentally friendly than conventional row-crop feed stocks. It’s interesting that even the algal-biofuel industry seems to be split on the issue.

    The University of Virginia researchers concluded that algae’s environmental footprint is larger than other terrestrial crops, and the environmental impact of algal-based biofuels needs to be better studied before major investments in algae production are made.

    Riggs Eckelberry, CEO of OriginOil contends “the research does prove that the old way of turning algae into biodiesel is not a valid method anymore. And it’s not a method his company practices. It basically puts a tombstone on those earlier approaches [to algal-biodiesel production.”

    Eckelberry says the Virginia study confirms earlier research that OriginOil did that found you need to co-locate algae-growing operations with other CO2 producers, you can’t use vast amounts of land, and non-potable water must be used, among other things.

    He hopes this will serve as a wake-up call for the algae industry and for the advocates to show that algae-based biofuels are truly the greenest fuels on the planet. Let me know if you’d be interested in a conversation with Mr. Eckelberry or interested to learn more about their work in algal biofuel technology. Consider Mr. Eckelberry or OriginOil for inclusion in a future article/posting.

    I’m happy to send you additional background material on OriginOil (OOIL.OB)"
    Jan 29 01:02 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Algae Biofuels - Not Sustainable [View article]
    Well the fact that it was only mentioned in passing in the DOE report leads me to believe it's not a serious proposition. The DOE consulted with the whole algae industry through conferences and submissions, and ostensibly concluded it wasn't going to happen.

    You do have a couple of demonstration projects in Chile and Japan for seaweed. I can't find any quantitative assessments, energy budgets or an LCA. If you can't find one of them, it's usually safe to not get too excited over a technology.

    I'll try and outline why they're probably not going to happen. The energy for all algae come from the sun, so the same photosynthesis constraints on land based algae apply. The maximum theoretical efficiency for algae is 11%, the maximum practical limit is 4.5% and the typical efficiency from a land based plant or current algae is 1%. If you read my other article, you'll find a quote from a photosynthesis expert who doesn't think you'll get much above this 1%.

    So that's the areal restriction. Algae are also extemely finicky. If you want to get the maximum growth rate you have to have the right temperature (20C-30C), the right amount and ratio of nutrients, the right salinity, the right level of sunlight (too high inhibits photosynthesis) and other constraints I can't think of.

    If you're just taking seaweed from the ocean, you're not going to get anything like the areal yield you might get from a controlled environment on land. You're also likely to cause havoc to the ecosystem by removing nutrients and the food source for e.g. urchins.

    So you'll have to harvest huge areas of the ocean, damaging the ocean in the process. You also won't be able to optimise the type of algae you're growing for lipid content because of the open nature of the ocean and any attempt to have a monoculture would likely be infected by viruses.

    There's also the small question of how much energy input is required versus energy output, for which I don't have figures.

    I'm not a phycologist, so perhaps ddugger could comment on the potential for macroalgae.
    Jan 29 12:49 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Will Ocean Power Be This Decade's Version of Wind Power? [View article]
    One thing about wave is that it's very resource intensive - steel etc. I haven't looked into it, but I imagine a good portion of the levelized cost of energy is raw materials. Raw materials are indexed to the cost of energy to produce them. Is that something you have an opinion on?
    Jan 28 07:12 PM | 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 10:39 AM | 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 01:58 PM | Likes 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 10:41 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Energy Storage is Not Needed for Renewables Integration [View instapost]
    truthteller, I apologise if my reply distorted your meaning but I took your opinion on the need for storage from the following quote: "If you are adding more renewables, you need to add more storage to ensure the grid's reliability."

    Regarding cost, a person at the conference tested a wind turbine coupled to a ZBB 125kW, 500kWh battery. Their quote was ( "Battery storage in commercial industrial wind autoproduction applications is difficult to justify economically at present".

    He suggests that with cost reductions it could be economic in the "medium term". I wholeheartedly agree that if storage drops significantly in price then it becomes attractive. I wasn't talking about that in this article. You'll notice my last paragraph: "Alternative storage technologies such as batteries and flywheels will compete on a purely economic basis."

    Now if I can interpret your last post, we seem to be on different pages. You are talking about the smart grid, presumably with each person having their own solar panel or wind turbine. With that scenario, you will have congestion trying to export the power upstream so storage may make sense. However I was talking about the large scale wind farms and solar farms on the high voltage side of the grid requiring storage. I could give you my opinion on the smart grid, but that would be another article.
    Dec 20 08:23 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Review of Energy Storage Market Forecasts [View instapost]
    truthteller, I haven't actually read the full reports so I'm unable to analyse how they came up with their headline figures. If it was based on the flawed assumption that you need storage to integrate wind and solar, then I'm skeptical. Now if we can get to the point where we say you don't NEED storage but you can consider it as part of a range of options to manage variability, then we're making progress. In some cases storage may be the least-cost option however my assessment is that the marignal cost curve of storage is steep and that the other options - flexible generation, demand side management etc - are cheaper than storage.
    Dec 19 06:58 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Energy Storage is Not Needed for Renewables Integration [View instapost]
    shorty_is_screwed, thanks for the link, however I'm a little underwhelmed by it. They require you to have a wind turbine or fuel cell to which you couple the wind turbine. If you read my last reply, you'll understand that I think that is an economically illiterate idea. In addition, the budget is a paltry $83 million. While Beacon Power and others are ticking along with a government funded MW here and a subsidised MW there, I've yet to see the large orders which would presage a storage revolution. John Petersen said the remarkable thing about a storage conference he attended recently was that there were no buyers.

    I've no idea why PG&E have that programme but could it possibly be because the CAISO allows them to reclaim the funds through customer charges?
    Dec 19 06:51 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Energy Storage is Not Needed for Renewables Integration [View instapost]
    truthteller, thanks for the links. I've been reading John's articles for over a year now, he's the reason I came to seekingalpha in the first place. I respect his analysis. He approaches the subject of storage from a financial viewpoint and will be the first to acknowledge that he is not a technical expert.

    The people I want to be taking guidance from on this subject are electrical engineers. You'll note that Imre Gyuk's background is in theoretical physics. In the Christian Science article you reference, the CS monitor quotes the American Institute of Chemical Engineers' report. They also have a quote from a professor of chemical engineering. With respect, what would chemical engineers know about electrical power systems?

    The statement from Arshad Mansoor (electrical engineer) is much more reasonable: "Storage will need to be part of our portfolio if going to 15 to 20 percent wind at a national level". No one is going to argue with that. To reach 20% of wind at a national level would require 300GW and the target the DOE have set for that is 2030. The US currently has 26GW. That does not suggest an imminent ramp up of storage. You'll also notice that David Bradwell says that sodium batteries are currently too expensive at $400/kWh.

    Furthermore, the head of energy storage at Sandia and chemical engineers in general have a vested interest in the future of energy storage since many of these storage technologies are chemically intricate. Sandia National Labs is a company owned by Lockheed Martin. How long would the head of energy storage last if he said the future for storage wasn't too rosy?!

    There is an excellent article in the current issue of Power and Energy magazine. You can read it here:

    It was written by 11 people with deep knowledge of electric power systems. They included 3 senior NREL analysts, 2 professors of electrical engineering, a director of General Electric and the president of Renewable Energy Consulting Services. It does a much more thorough job of explaining why storage is not needed than I have done here.

    They state: "The fact that “the wind doesn’t always blow” is often used to
    suggest the need for dedicated energy storage to handle fluctuations in the generation of wind power. Such viewpoints,however, ignore the realities of both grid operation and the performance of a large, spatially diverse wind-generation resource."

    The type of storage that the CS monitor article suggests - that you have dedicated storage for an individual wind turbine/wind site is a ridiculous waste of resources.

    Regarding your second link, Steven Milunovich's (degree in management) opinion about lithium-ion batteries for GEVs may well be accurate, but that wasn't what I was discussing here.

    If you read the above link, you'll realise that power systems are complicated and that they are not subject to superficial analysis such as wind=variable, therefore we need storage. I worked in a research group last summer run by one of the authors of the above-linked article and discussed the issue with PhD students specialising in the area. I also participated in a storage conference in November. You can find all the presentations here ( It was evident that investing in storage is a highly complex undertaking which involves modelling the future price of energy. Another point driven home was that storage destroys its own value. The more storage you have on the system, the lower the spread between peak and off-peak prices which erases the margin needed to profitably operate storage.

    Thanks for reading.
    Dec 19 06:44 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
    That is a bit puzzling. As you say, I thought that lithium being too expensive and unreliable was a central plank in lead-acid proponents' arguments. To see Exide put a finger in the lithium pie implies any combination of the following:

    (a) they are not confident lead-acid will dominate the market
    (b) the prospects for Exide's lead-acid are not great
    (c) they see synergies with the lithium-ion business
    (d) they're hedging their bets

    I'm actually going to Bolivia this week for a holiday. I'll be trekking across the Salar de Uyuni, should be great fun!
    Nov 8 05:02 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Energy Storage is Not Needed for Renewables Integration [View instapost]
    Hi, Bushy. I agree, that's a caveat I should have added. Places like Hawaii and other small islands have different economics than larger systems. Seekingalpha is fairly US-centric so that's what I focused on.
    Oct 15 06:35 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment