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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.

Sponsors
Nevada Energy Metals
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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Oil and Gas

How Oil Is Adding Fuel to Geopolitical Fragmentation

Which countries and regions decreased, banned, or increased Russian oil imports following the 2022 invasion of Ukraine?

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A preview Sankey chart showing Russian oil imported by country from 2021 to 2023.

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The following content is sponsored by The Hinrich Foundation

How Oil Is Adding Fuel to Global Fragmentation

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 led to severe bans or restrictions on Russian oil from the West. Meanwhile, other nations—including China, India, and Türkiye—opted to deepen trade ties with the country.

This graphic from the Hinrich Foundation is the final visualization in a three-part series covering the future of trade. It provides visual context to the growing divide among countries shunning Russian oil versus those taking advantage of the excess supply.

Which Countries Have Decreased or Banned Russian Oil Imports?

This analysis uses data from the IEA’s February 2024 Oil Market Report on Russian oil exports from 2021 to 2023.

Following the invasion, both the U.S. and the UK enacted a complete ban on Russian crude. Imports dropped from 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2021 to zero by late-2022. 

Country/Region2021 (bpd)2022 (bpd)2023 (bpd)Change; 2021-2023 (bpd)
EU3.3M3.0M600K-2.7M
UK & U.S.600K100K0-600K
OECD Asia500K200K0-500K

Similarly, the EU, which has historically been more reliant on oil from Russia, dropped imports by over 80%, from 3.3 million bpd in 2021 to 600,000 bpd in 2023.

OECD Asia-Pacific—which includes Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand—also slashed their Russian oil imports. 

Which Countries Have Increased Imports of Russian Oil?

The pullback in demand for Russian crude from the West created a buying opportunity for countries and regions that chose not to support Western sanctions. 

Country/Region2021 (bpd)2022 (bpd)2023 (bpd)Change; 2021-2023 (bpd)
India100K900K1.9M+1.8M
China1.6M1.9M2.3M+700K
Türkiye200K400K700K+500K
Africa100K100K400K+300K
Middle East100K200K300K+200K
Latin America100K100K200K+100K
Other800K600K900K+100K

India increased its imports of oil from Russia, by the largest amount from 2021 to 2023—up to 1.9 million bpd from only 100,000 bpd

China, the biggest net importer, also saw a large uptick. The country boosted imports for Russian oil by over 40% over this timeframe. Türkiye increased imports of Russian crude by an additional 500,000 bpd

Several other regions—such as Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America—saw slight upticks in imports. 

Shifting Trade Dependencies

The dynamics present in the global crude market underscore broader trends in Russia’s trade relationships. Russia is becoming increasingly less economically reliant on the West and more reliant on China. 

From 2022 to 2023, the largest upward shift in the UNCTAD’s bilateral trade dependency estimates was Russia’s increased reliance upon China (+7.1%). 

DependentDepending OnAnnual Change
RussiaChina+7.1%
UkraineEU+5.8%
BrazilChina+3.0%

Note: Trade dependencies are calculated by UNCTAD as the ratio of two countries’ bilateral trade over the total trade of the dependent economy.

In fact, China threw a lifeline to Russia in the aftermath of the Ukraine invasion. The Atlantic Council reported that Chinese exports to Russia have grown 121% since 2021, while exports to the rest of the world have increased by only 29% in the same period.  

In contrast, Russia also exhibited a large decrease in reliance on the EU (-5.3%). South Korea and the U.S. have made shifts to further distance themselves from China as geopolitical tensions continue to mount.

DependentDepending OnAnnual Change
RussiaEU-5.3%
South KoreaChina-1.2%
U.S.China-1.2%

As the Russian oil market shows, geopolitical tensions have the potential to significantly impact trade. Though Russian crude exports remained steady amid the conflict, this necessitated a shift in its main trading partners. 

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Visit the Hinrich Foundation to learn more about the future of geopolitical trade

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