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Jack Lifton
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Jack Lifton is an Independent consultant and commentator, focusing on the market fundamentals and future end use trends of the rare metals. He specializes in the sourcing of nonferrous strategic metals and on due diligence studies of businesses in that space. His work includes exploration,... More
My company:
Technology Metals Research
My blog:
The Jack Lifton Report
  • Introducing "On The Green Road." My talk at the Annual General Meeting of Great Western Minerals Group in Saskatoon, SK, on September 10, 2009 13 comments
    Sep 12, 2009 8:16 PM

    I have now in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, introduced a concept that I intend to develop as a documentary film series and also to use, from now on,  to define the importance and the order of priority of the supply chain basics that include and begin with hard rock mining for rare metals and go on from there to list all of of the processes required to manufacture the high technology devices from them, upon which our technological civilization is more and more dependent, and without which rare metals most of those high technology devices simply could not be built.

    I call the concept the journey "On The Green Road" to the sustainable energy future.

    I formally introduced this concept last Thursday, Sep. 10, 2009, at the annual general meeting of Canada's Great Western Minerals Group (GWG.V) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Great Western's report to its shareholders, delivered to them before my talk, by its Chairman, Gary Billingsley, and its President, Jim Engdahl, were a revelation to me of just how far GWMG has come on its own path since the grim days of early 2009.

    Not only has GWMG come back from a financial near death experience, but it has been reborn with its debt under control; its shares trading at a velocity such that its entire float has turned over in the last 60 days (nearly 200 million shares traded when GWMG has a total of just that issued and authorized); and an outstanding portfolio of high grade rare earth deposits in Canada, The Republic of South Africa, and the United States that positons it, in my opinion, to be the first non Chinese mining company ever to produce the heavy rare earths dysprosium and terbium outside of China. As I have told you before another very fine Canadain miner, Avalon Rare Metals (AVL.TO) is also going to produce those heavy rare earths within 3 years, and I did write this summer that I thought that Avalon would be the first in the world, outside of China, to do so, but GWMG may well have taken the lead now. I will shortly write you a report on the GWMG annual general meeting announcements that lead me to this handicapping conclusion, but today I want to direct you to the 3 videos now posted on YouTube of my talk at that meeting.

    I promise in the videos to publish my definiton of the "Green Road, which I read to the Saskatoon audience, and I will do that tomorrow, Sunday, Sep. 13, 2009, along with some of the text of that talk, which I think I would like you to be able to ponder leisurely.

    The following videos are from just the one talk, but the rules of the Internet rquired that they be broken into segments of 10 minutes or less. I thank Gord Dent, the communications director of GWMG for posting them, and I thank Ron Malashewski, GWMG's Investor Relations Manager for his participation in that decision.

    If occasionally my civility slips for a moment when i am talking about the national governments of the USA and Canada I apologize. I also mean no disrespect to the very skilled chemical engineers and metallurgists who work at producing rare earths in the USA; they are very good at what they do and among the world's best in their profession.



    1. http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&source=hp&q=%22Jack%20Lifton%22&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wv#

    2. http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&source=hp&q=%22Jack%20Lifton%22&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wv#

    3. http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&source=hp&q=%22Jack%20Lifton%22&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wv#

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Comments (13)
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  • jimp
    , contributor
    Comments (713) | Send Message
     
    Mr. Lifton, excellent presentation. With your knowledge of rare earth resources in north america, which company, Avalon or Great Western has the more valuable portfolio in terms of quantity and quality of rare earths?
    12 Sep 2009, 09:14 PM Reply Like
  • Eamon Keane
    , contributor
    Comments (310) | Send Message
     
    Jack, perhaps you could clarify what you mean by brushless DC motors being 'the most efficient' motors. It's my understanding that for smaller motors DC is more efficient but for larger motors AC is more efficient.

     

    A Prius has, afaik, a 50kW motor and a 25kW generator - both DC permanent magnet. What penalty, if any, would be incurred by changing to AC induction?

     

    You may be right that hybrids such as the Prius are more efficient with DC but do you accept that for a full electric an AC induction motor is more efficient? Would you also accept that AC induction motors are an option for hybrids?

     

    The same applies for wind turbines, a direct drive motor with direct current excitation may have an average efficiency higher than a permanent magnet excitation variety.

     

    I think you overstate the importance of rare earths to certain aspects of the Green Road and that you commit sins of omission by neglecting to mention the alternatives which most of your audience are unaware of.
    12 Sep 2009, 10:19 PM Reply Like
  • Jack Lifton
    , contributor
    Comments (430) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Why doesn't Toyota take your advice and switch over to AC induction motors? Why don't the wind turbine makers such as GE, Siemens, and Vesta simply switch to iron based permanent magnet generators? Why are all of the companies named above searching the world for neodymium, dysprosium, and terbium?

     

    The question you need to ask yourself is why were rare earth permanent magnets used in the first place if iron based magnets would have been economical? Rare earth permanent magnets have always been and will remain, always more expensive than iron based permanent magnets. The price differential must be worth the gains in efficiency and weight-reduction. As I have said before, many times, weight reduction in a motor vehcile means extended range, in a generator high above the ground less weight and more power from less weight means less structural support and less maintenance; in a civilian aircraft less power train weight for the same efficiency and power means more cargo or freight capacity and for a weapon it means more payload.

     

    Perhaps you are unaware of the fact that car makers count ounces of reduction in weight/power to achieve, literally, thimbles of saved fuel.

     

    As for EVs i simple don't believe they will be a market factor for many years to come.

     

    On Sep 12 10:19 PM engstudent wrote:

     

    > Jack, perhaps you could clarify what you mean by brushless DC motors
    > being 'the most efficient' motors. It's my understanding that for
    > smaller motors DC is more efficient but for larger motors AC is more
    > efficient.
    >
    > A Prius has, afaik, a 50kW motor and a 25kW generator - both DC permanent
    > magnet. What penalty, if any, would be incurred by changing to AC
    > induction?
    >
    > You may be right that hybrids such as the Prius are more efficient
    > with DC but do you accept that for a full electric an AC induction
    > motor is more efficient? Would you also accept that AC induction
    > motors are an option for hybrids?
    >
    > The same applies for wind turbines, a direct drive motor with direct
    > current excitation may have an average efficiency higher than a permanent
    > magnet excitation variety.
    >
    > I think you overstate the importance of rare earths to certain aspects
    > of the Green Road and that you commit sins of omission by neglecting
    > to mention the alternatives which most of your audience are unaware
    > of.
    13 Sep 2009, 12:13 AM Reply Like
  • Jack Lifton
    , contributor
    Comments (430) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » That's a very good question, and I'll try to answer it this week.

     

    On Sep 12 09:14 PM jimp wrote:

     

    > Mr. Lifton, excellent presentation. With your knowledge of rare earth
    > resources in north america, which company, Avalon or Great Western
    > has the more valuable portfolio in terms of quantity and quality
    > of rare earths?
    13 Sep 2009, 12:13 AM Reply Like
  • Mayascribe
    , contributor
    Comments (11198) | Send Message
     
    Jack: You are my guru about REE's. There are still many stocks out there in various sectors of which are going to be 1000% to the upside. REE's deserve being A-listed.
    13 Sep 2009, 01:38 AM Reply Like
  • Gareth Hatch
    , contributor
    Comments (152) | Send Message
     
    Without wanting to further muddy the water too much here, engstudent [since I am not an expert on motors] - AC motors can come in a range of topologies that include both induction and permanent magnet [PM] configurations - i.e. a switch to AC does not necessarily mean a switch away from PMs as the means of generating a magnetic field in the rotor.

     

    The most obvious benefit of using PM motors over induction motors, is that you don't have the I2R (power or heat) losses in PM motors that you see in induction motors. Using PMs eliminates the need to electrically excite the rotor and you gain much greater efficiencies.

     

    The challenge with PM motors is that they are generally a lot more expensive, they need more complex control systems and they are not as physically robust as induction motors.
    13 Sep 2009, 01:41 AM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30629) | Send Message
     
    The three videos are well worth watching. I'm a strong proponent of supply chain issues because most Americans and Europeans have never had to deal with the idea of shortage as meaning "not available at any price" as opposed to "only available at a higher price." In a world where six billion people have recently come to understand that there is more to life than subsistence and they're each willing to work very hard to earn a little piece of the pie, the ugly realities of shortage means will become increasingly clear to all of us in the immediate future. In the final analysis, I think it means that we all have to change our wasteful ways to make more room at the table for six billion new consumers. We also have to disabuse ourselves of the notion that "the dirty work" of resource development can be sent "somewhere other than my backyard." The good news is the six billion new consumers will probably be the demand driver that pulls the world out of its current economic chaos and ultimately save us from suffering the pain we so richly deserve for the foolish economic decisions we've made over the last 40 years.
    13 Sep 2009, 02:57 AM Reply Like
  • ddot
    , contributor
    Comments (3) | Send Message
     
    Lynas Corporation (LYC) has the richest REE mine in the world and even though they are being held back by the Australian Government, they will be the first producing mine outside of China. Why do they not get a wrap in your articles that is positive? is this biased to the Northern Hemisphere because where I am sitting LYC are in the box seat!
    13 Sep 2009, 05:06 AM Reply Like
  • Eamon Keane
    , contributor
    Comments (310) | Send Message
     
    Jack: It's a good question you pose, I don't know what the thought process for selection was but I'm sure they chose wisely. I think they will change if REs become difficult to acquire.

     

    The best discussion I can find of AC vs DC brushless is page 96/97 of the IEA's "Status Overview of Hybrid and Electric Vehicle technology (2007)": (www.ieahev.org/pdfs/an...).
    If concludes by saying "It is likely that in a few years both, ASMs and PMSMs will be used in HEVs". In HEVs like the Prius, DC brushless will probably remain the desired choice but if Toyota can't source the REs then they can (a) shut up shop or (b) switch to AC.

     

    As for wind, the counterfactual is that Enercon continues to use RE-free generators. Your point about tower top mass is well taken, and Enercon's may be up to 30% heavier; doubly-fed induction generators appear to have the same tower-top mass as permanent magnet varieties: www.ewec2006proceeding...

     

    Current projections show the world going from 121GW wind at the end of 2008 to 840GW by 2020 (www.gigatonthrowdown.o...). That's 360,000 extra 2MW machines. There's two hopes of REs accommodating any meaningful fraction of that, regardless of putative benefits, which is why I'd be bullish Enercon.

     

    Gareth, I'm aware of Multibrid systems which are a permanent-magnet lite version, is that what you allude to? Are these/can these combos be used in cars? With regards to PM being more difficult to control, this Tesla blog (www.teslamotors.com/bl...) and the IEA link argue otherwise. Is it different for wind turbines?
    13 Sep 2009, 07:16 AM Reply Like
  • battman
    , contributor
    Comments (370) | Send Message
     
    It's alway great to hear from someone so knowledgable in his field. Thanks for the insights.
    13 Sep 2009, 09:14 AM Reply Like
  • Gareth Hatch
    , contributor
    Comments (152) | Send Message
     
    engstudent,

     

    Thanks for that link. As I mention before, I am no expert on motors - but the comment on the blog surprises me. Brushless PM motors need control systems in order to commutate the motor - anything from simple electronic modules to variable-frequency drives depending on size - in order to control the speed and torque. Certainly I have seen some amazingly complex multiphase AC induction motors - and controlling all those phases gets more and more complex. Perhaps it is to that aspect of controlling an AC system that the Tesla blogger was referring.

     

    I'm not sure I quite follow on the Multibrid reference; certainly motors and generators are in the same family of electric devices but my earlier comments were in reference to motors rather than generators. As Jack alluded to - when the goal to reduce volume and mass is critical, PM-based motors will always be worth looking at because the size of the PMs required, compared to a set of electrical coils putting out the same magnetic field, will invariably be smaller. In addition, you can create a much denser population of magnetic poles with PMs, in a given volume, which is attractive [although that introduces further complexity to the control system].

     

    Also note that the needs and structures of electrical machines differ between low speed-high torque and high speed-low torque scenarios.

     

    Speaking of Multibrid though - their 1.5 MW combo PM drive - geared system may well be an optimal design in terms of power output to weight ratio. I saw an analytical IEEE paper on this but don't have it to hand.

     

    What I'm really interested to see is when permanent magnet gear systems [check out the animated examples at infolytica.com/en/cool.../ ] and the so-called pseudo-direct drive systems [combinations of electrical machines and permanent magnet gear systems] might debut commercially, especially in wind turbines - but also in vehicular applications. As a shameless plug, I'll be talking on this very subject at the Magnetics 2010 conference in Florida, in Jan 2010. Such devices have the potential to give best-in-class torque densities and machine efficiencies [if we can keep the costs done!], and are the subject of a lot of research right now.
    13 Sep 2009, 12:24 PM Reply Like
  • Gareth Hatch
    , contributor
    Comments (152) | Send Message
     
    Sorry guys - looks like the URL got broken in my last comment - add a www. at the beginning of the link to see the animations.
    13 Sep 2009, 12:30 PM Reply Like
  • Gareth Hatch
    , contributor
    Comments (152) | Send Message
     
    I just posted an article, indirectly related to Jack's article here, at RareMetalBlog.com [ bit.ly/16eG1e ] titled: 'Is It Time To Re-Establish A North American Rare Earth Information Center?'. I would be interested to hear some comments on the idea.
    14 Sep 2009, 12:00 AM Reply Like
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