Our Energy Problem: Putting the Battery in Context
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Our Energy Problem: Putting the Battery in Context

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The Battery Series
Part 2: Our Energy Problem: Putting the Battery in Context

The Battery Series is a five-part infographic series that explores what investors need to know about modern battery technology, including raw material supply, demand, and future applications.

Presented by: Nevada Energy Metals, eCobalt Solutions Inc., and Great Lakes Graphite

The Battery Series - Part 1The Battery Series - Part 2The Battery Series - Part 3The Battery Series - Part 4The Battery Series - Part 5

The Battery Series: Our Energy Problem: Putting the Battery in Context

The Battery Series - Part 1The Battery Series - Part 2The Battery Series - Part 3The Battery Series - Part 4The Battery Series - Part 5

Our Energy Problem: Putting the Battery in Context

In Part 1, we examined the evolution of battery technology. In this part, we examine what batteries can and cannot do, and the energy problem that humans hope that batteries can help solve.

Batteries enable many important aspects of modern life.

They are portable, quiet, compact, and can start-up with the flick of a switch. Importantly, batteries can also store energy from the sun and wind for future use.

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eCobalt Solutions Inc.
Great Lakes Graphite

However, batteries also have many limitations that prevent them from taking on an even bigger role in society. They must be recharged, and they hold a limited amount of energy. A single battery cycle is only so long, and after many of them they begin to lose potency.

Therefore, to understand the market for batteries and how it may look in the future, it is essential to understand what a battery can and cannot do.

Energy Density

The biggest difference between batteries and other fuel types is in energy density.

Even the best lithium-ion batteries have a specific energy of about 250 Wh/kg. That is just 2% of the energy density of gasoline, and less than 1% of hydrogen.

While it may be enough to power a car, it’s also magnificent engineering that helps makes this possible. Airplanes, ships, trains, and other large power drains will not be using batteries in powertrains anytime soon.

A Renewable Future?

Renewable energy sources like solar and wind face a similar problem – today’s battery technology cannot store big enough payloads of energy. To balance the load, excess energy must be stored somehow to be used when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.

Currently, industrial-strength battery systems are not yet fully developed to handle this storage problem on a widespread commercial basis, though progress is being made in many areas. New technologies such as vanadium flow batteries could play an important role in energy storage in the future. But for now, large-scale energy storage batteries are experimental.

Other energy storage technologies may also solve this problem:

  • Chemical storage: Using excess electricity to create hydrogen fuel, which can be stored.
  • Pumped hydro: Using electricity to pump water up to a reservoir, which can be later used to generate hydroelectric power.
  • Compressed air: Using electricity to compress air in deep caverns, which can be released to generate power.

Solving this energy storage problem will pave the way for more use of renewables in the future on a grander scale.

The Sweet Spot

Therefore, the sweet spot for battery use today comes when batteries can take advantage of their best properties. Batteries can be small, portable, charged on the go, and provide energy at the flick of a switch.

It’s why so many rechargeable batteries are used in: electronics, laptops, smartphones, electric cars, power tools, startup motors, and other portable items that can benefit from these traits.

To assess the suitability of a particular type for any specific use, there are 10 major properties worth looking at:

  • High Specific Energy: Specific energy is the total amount of energy stored by a battery. The more energy a battery can store, the longer it can run.
  • High Specific Power: Specific power is the amount of load current drawn from the battery. Without high specific power, a battery cannot be used for the high-drain activities we need
  • Affordable Cost: If the price isn’t right for a particular battery type, it may be worth using an alternative fuel source or battery configuration for economic reasons
  • Long Life: The chemical makeup of batteries isn’t perfect. As a result, they only last for a number of charge/discharge cycles – if that number is low, that means a battery’s use may be limited.
  • High Safety: Batteries are used in consumer goods or for important industrial or government applications – none of these parties want batteries to cause safety issues.
  • Wide Operating Range: Some chemical reactions don’t work well in the cold or heat – that’s why it’s important to have batteries that work in a range of temperatures where it can be useful.
  • No Toxicity: Nickel cadmium batteries are no longer used because of their toxic environmental implications. New batteries to be commercialized must meet stringent standards in these regards.
  • Fast Charging: What good would a smartphone be if it took two full days to recharge? Charge time matters.
  • Low Self-Discharge: All batteries discharge small amounts when left alone over time – the question is how much, and does it make an impact on the usability of the battery?
  • Long Shelf Life: The shelf life of batteries affects the whole supply chain, so it is important that batteries can be usable many years after being manufactured.

There are many pros and cons to consider in choosing a battery type. The more pros that a given battery technology can check off the above list, the more likely it is to be commercially viable.

Now that you know what batteries can and cannot do, we will now look at the rechargeable battery market in Part 3 of the Battery Series.

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Energy

Who’s Still Buying Fossil Fuels From Russia?

Here are the top importers of Russian fossil fuels since the start of the war.

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The Largest Importers of Russian Fossil Fuels Since the War

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

Despite looming sanctions and import bans, Russia exported $97.7 billion worth of fossil fuels in the first 100 days since its invasion of Ukraine, at an average of $977 million per day.

So, which fossil fuels are being exported by Russia, and who is importing these fuels?

The above infographic tracks the biggest importers of Russia’s fossil fuel exports during the first 100 days of the war based on data from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).

In Demand: Russia’s Black Gold

The global energy market has seen several cyclical shocks over the last few years.

The gradual decline in upstream oil and gas investment followed by pandemic-induced production cuts led to a drop in supply, while people consumed more energy as economies reopened and winters got colder. Consequently, fossil fuel demand was rising even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which exacerbated the market shock.

Russia is the third-largest producer and second-largest exporter of crude oil. In the 100 days since the invasion, oil was by far Russia’s most valuable fossil fuel export, accounting for $48 billion or roughly half of the total export revenue.

Fossil fuelRevenue from exports (Feb 24 - June 4)% of total Russian fossil fuel export revenue
Crude oil$48.3B49.4%
Pipeline gas$25.2B25.8%
Oil products$13.6B13.9%
Liquified Natural Gas (LNG)$5.4B5.5%
Coal$5.0B5.1%
Total$97.7B100%

While Russian crude oil is shipped on tankers, a network of pipelines transports Russian gas to Europe. In fact, Russia accounts for 41% of all natural gas imports to the EU, and some countries are almost exclusively dependent on Russian gas. Of the $25 billion exported in pipeline gas, 85% went to the EU.

The Top Importers of Russian Fossil Fuels

The EU bloc accounted for 61% of Russia’s fossil fuel export revenue during the 100-day period.

Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands—members of both the EU and NATO—were among the largest importers, with only China surpassing them.

CountryValue of fossil fuel imports from Russia (Feb 24 - Jun 4)% of Russian fossil fuel export revenue
🇨🇳 China$13.2B13.5%
🇩🇪 Germany$12.7B12.9%
🇮🇹 Italy$8.2B8.4%
🇳🇱 Netherlands$8.2B8.4%
🇹🇷 Turkey$7.0B7.2%
🇵🇱 Poland$4.6B4.7%
🇫🇷 France$4.5B4.6%
🇮🇳 India$3.6B3.7%
🌍 Other$35.7B36.5%
Total$97.7B100%

China overtook Germany as the largest importer, importing nearly 2 million barrels of discounted Russian oil per day in May—up 55% relative to a year ago. Similarly, Russia surpassed Saudi Arabia as China’s largest oil supplier.

The biggest increase in imports came from India, buying 18% of all Russian oil exports during the 100-day period. A significant amount of the oil that goes to India is re-exported as refined products to the U.S. and Europe, which are trying to become independent of Russian imports.

Reducing Reliance on Russia

In response to the invasion of Ukraine, several countries have taken strict action against Russia through sanctions on exports, including fossil fuels. 

The U.S. and Sweden have banned Russian fossil fuel imports entirely, with monthly import volumes down 100% and 99% in May relative to when the invasion began, respectively.

importers of russian fossil fuels

On a global scale, monthly fossil fuel import volumes from Russia were down 15% in May, an indication of the negative political sentiment surrounding the country.

It’s also worth noting that several European countries, including some of the largest importers over the 100-day period, have cut back on Russian fossil fuels. Besides the EU’s collective decision to reduce dependence on Russia, some countries have also refused the country’s ruble payment scheme, leading to a drop in imports.

The import curtailment is likely to continue. The EU recently adopted a sixth sanction package against Russia, placing a complete ban on all Russian seaborne crude oil products. The ban, which covers 90% of the EU’s oil imports from Russia, will likely realize its full impact after a six-to-eight month period that permits the execution of existing contracts.

While the EU is phasing out Russian oil, several European countries are heavily reliant on Russian gas. A full-fledged boycott on Russia’s fossil fuels would also hurt the European economy—therefore, the phase-out will likely be gradual, and subject to the changing geopolitical environment.

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Oil and Gas

How Affordable is Gas in Latin America?

This graphic looks at gas affordability in Latin America, showing how much a liter of gas costs in 19 countries, relative to average incomes.

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How Affordable is Gas in Latin America?

As gas prices have risen around the world, not each region and country is impacted equally.

Globally, the average price for a liter of gas was $1.44 USD on June 13, 2022.

But the actual price at the pump, and how affordable that price is for residents, varies greatly from country to country. This is especially true in Latin America, a region widely regarded as one of the world’s most unequal regions in terms of its income and resource distribution.

Using monthly data from GlobalPetrolPrices.com as of May 2022, this graphic by Latinometrics compares gas affordability in different countries across Latin America.

Gas Affordability in 19 Different Latin American Countries

To measure gas affordability, Latinometrics took the price of a liter of gas in 19 different Latin American countries and territories, and divided those figures by each country’s average daily income, using salary data from Statista.

Out of the 19 regions included in the dataset, Venezuela has the most affordable gas on the list. In Venezuela, a liter of gas is equivalent to roughly 1.3% of the country’s average daily income.

CountryGas price as of May 2022 (USD)% of average daily income
🇳🇮 Nicaragua$1.3714.0%
​🇩🇴​ Dominican Republic$1.4112.6%
🇧🇷​ Brazil$1.4312.5%
🇵🇾​ Paraguay$1.3912.2%
🇵🇪 Peru$1.5310.2%
🇺🇾 Uruguay$1.929.8%
🇸🇻​ El Salvador$1.149.2%
​​🇭🇳​ Honduras$1.338.6%
🇲🇽​ Mexico$1.177.8%
🇬🇹​ Guatemala$1.447.7%
🇦🇷 Argentina$1.066.7%
​🇨🇱​ Chile$1.376.6%
🇨🇷​ Costa Rica$1.425.9%
🇨🇴 Colombia$0.585.7%
​🇵🇦 ​Panama$1.275.0%
🇪🇨 Ecuador$0.674.1%
🇧🇴 Bolivia$0.543.2%
🇵🇷​ Puerto Rico$1.352.2%
🇻🇪​ Venezuela$0.021.3%

This isn’t too surprising, as Venezuela is home to the largest share of proven oil reserves in the world. However, it’s worth noting that international sanctions against Venezuelan oil, largely because of political corruption, have hampered the once prosperous sector in the country.

On the other end of the spectrum, Nicaragua has the least affordable gas on the list, with one liter of gas costing 14% of the average daily income in the country.

Historically, the Nicaraguan government has not regulated gas prices in the country, but in light of the current global energy crisis triggered in large part by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the government has stepped in to help control the situation.

As the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues with no end in sight, it’ll be interesting to see where prices are at in the next few months.

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