130: It’s a gas, gas, gas – CO2 Batteries

Matt and Sean discuss CO2 batteries, how fast they might be here, and how much of an impact they may have. 

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, “How the CO2 battery could be the future of energy storage?”: https://youtu.be/GSzh8D8Of0k?list=PLnTSM-ORSgi4dFnLD9622FK77atWtQVv7

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Hey, everybody on today’s episode of still to be determined, we’re gonna to be talking about air bladders. I’m gonna let that sink in for everybody. It’s not as awkward as it sounds. We’re actually talking about airable bladders that are filled with CO2 and can be used as a battery. So who expected? As usual I’m Sean Ferrell.

I write some sci-fi. I write some stuff for kids. And I’m curious about technology. And luckily for me, my brother is Matt of undecided with Matt Ferrell. Matt, how you doing today? I’m doing



How about yourself? I’m doing okay. The heat wave has finally broken here in New York city and we are experiencing temperatures that while still warm don’t feel like they’re trying to melt my.

So I’m enjoying that we are of course talking about Matt’s most recent video. This one dropped on August 9th, 2022. How the CO2 battery could be the future of energy storage question. Mark, Matt. This one included in the interview with an Italian gentleman. Yes. Who had the most charming accent of any interviewee?

You’ve ever had on your, on your channel, really enjoyed his talking about this new technology, which uses technology, which is not new, which I think is terrific. It really is a, a step forward to utilize air compression. And as you pointed out and he pointed out the technology to do this is stuff that is used around the world.

Yep. Through oil and gas. Technology, that would be relatively easy to set up and start utilizing this technology. And from that perspective, this seems like, well, that’s already kind of a, like if you’re looking at baseball terms, that’s already kind of a double, like you’ve, you’ve already, you’ve gotten past first.

If the technology already exists to do this thing, that’s already a double. Now what gets you heading toward third is. In my, in my eyes, the idea that the, the gases involved, these are not explosive. Clearly somebody pointed out in the comments, if there was a large enough leak, you might have breathing problems.

That could be an issue, but the, the chances of that happening in a happening, in a way that would actually be that kind of dangerous, I think you’d have to literally. Inadvertently open the wrong door and walk into the air bladder in order to experience that kind of thing. Yes. So it’s a relatively safe technology.

So now you’re heading toward third. And then when you get to the kinds of efficiencies that they are proposing, that they could reach, which would be on par with the higher levels of air compression technologies and water technologies. Yeah, it sounds like you’ve got a, got a home run and it, what I found fascinating very often in your videos, you’re talking about like, so the plan for them is that they’re gonna have this up and running by 20 30, 20, 35.

They’re talking about late next year or early the following year. Yes. They’re talking about within 18 months to two years. So, I mean, this really seems like, boy, talk about flying under the radar. Just very quietly cobbling together. Like what do you got back there? We got a giant air bladder it’s full of CO2 and we’re gonna use it as a battery.

And like, like, how is this not getting more attention?

That, that was my question. When this news popped up about this, like the articles I was reading about it, I was like, how come this is not something that we’re hearing more about already. and after talking to him in my interview with ’em, it was clear that they’ve been moving extremely fast.

So they were moving. They’ve been working on this for, you know, five plus years. But it was over the past couple years that things came together super fast and the amount of testing and the pilot facility they built. It was very quick to spin that up. It was very quick to iterate and try to improve the performance of the system.

So they’re moving much faster than you might expect a typical. Startup at this phase to be moving. So I think that’s part of why, because , it’s like, they’re like they’re already sprinting when you’d expect a group like this to be just kind of walking along probably a year and a half before I talked to them, I talked to a company called Highview power, which does liquid air energy storage.

And. It’s what you would expect. It’s like, okay, we kind of a pilot facility and it’s gonna be two or three years before we get the next facility built and all this kind of thing spun up. And it was kind of the pace that you expect. And so this, this group is working at a much faster pace than, than that, which is surprising, but also pretty exciting.

I wanted to share some comments as we move through this conversation. And there’s this one, which I am gonna clarify. I’m not exactly sure. About the source of the comment. I will give you my interpretation of what I think is happening. The post comes from Ann Jaki Colley, but it has a signature line at the bottom, which appears to be Domenico Barry alley.

Let me say that again, Barry LoRa. I believe that is the last name. I think what this might be is that. Domenico may have had a comment, but not an account. And somebody posted on his behalf. Okay. I looked up Domenico and if it is the same Domenico I found there is a professor of engineering in Canada who goes, who has this name?

So I believe that this may in fact, be this professor of engineer. In Canada who writes via Andrew Joki Colley. First of all, congratulations to my Italian cousins for being first off the block with a significant product of this type. It is sure to find a significantly big niche for any energy stored cycle that follows the day, night latency.

I would caution in connection with cion observations below that this sort of practical thermodynamic cycle only works well. I E I E near its peak efficiency near some such cycle time, as it depends critically on the use of the so-called heat regenerator to recover the energy used in the compression phase.

Yep. Not an insignificant part of the energy stored is locked up in the regenerators and any attempt to rush or prolong the storage time means going off cycle to accommodate or lose that heat anyway, any good tech has its optimal operational constraints. Nice report, Matt. Thank you. And then signed demand.

That’s awesome. So I thought that was a great, I missed that one. Yeah. I thought that was a great comment, very knowledgeable clearly, and a sharing of, you know, some of the details behind the scenes of like, okay, you’ve got your setup and you’re trying to reach that peak efficiency. There could be somewhat narrow window in getting to that peak efficiency as he points out.

If you’re, if you’re doing things at a slightly different cycle, you’re trying to move the gas a little faster than your normal production of energy might allow. You’re going to be losing some of that energy that could be used for. Electricity production because you’re gonna be using it to actually change your gas from state to state.

So was there anything in your discussions and your research around this that indicated that there’s a zone where this technology is most efficient? Is this something where, you know, the closer to the equator, you get the better, because then you’re dealing with. More sun, you’re dealing with a more optimal temperature where the gas is being transferred back from state to state a little easier because of ambient temperatures, or is this something that they foresee as being able to use regardless of climate, regardless of how close or far away you are from optimal.

Well based what we were finding and my conversation with with them, it, it correlate the two, what we found in our own match with what they were telling us, which is, this is really. and I love that comment that you read, because this is right along these lines. There’s a specific setup where this makes the most sense.

And they point blank said to me like, this is meant for grid scale utility, because there’s a certain scale you have to get to yeah. Where this makes sense. So it’s anything smaller than a certain size will not make sense. At that point. It’s better to use lithium on batteries and other technologies, but once you hit a certain threshold, this is where it makes sense.

And it’s for these long cycle long duration. Bits of energy that you storing, trying to recover because of that, it’s, it’s not just the kinetic energy of you’re using the CO2 compression coming back out to spin a turbine. You’re also recovering the heat because those two things combined actually create a system.

Yeah. That’s very efficient. If you take the heat outta the equation, then suddenly this becomes a completely inefficient. No good. It’s it’s not gonna work. So it’s, it’s about capturing multiple forms of. You’re talking about heat, thermal, you’re talking about kinetic and combining those where you end up with this, this kind of sweet spot for a great energy storage system.

So this is kind of like, think about pumped hydro energy storage. This is like a competitor to that. And from what we found, there’s really no difference in climate. So you could basically build one of these things pretty much anywhere, and it will work and you can get it to work and you get it to, you can get it to be efficient.

So it’s not climate that would be. Limiting factor. It sounded like. And what we found was that it’s more about scale size. That kind of a thing is what’s the limiting

factor. There was also this comment from John who wrote there’s another company S in the United States that developed the iron Redux flow battery.

Either is effective. I don’t know which would be cheaper or take up more space. And neither uses elements that are, are under high demand for other uses other than iron, but that’s the most common element. So no big deal there actually, after watching the process and efficiency, the ESS system is more effective and I’m sure it takes up less space.

So he apparently started his comment then went and did some research and came back and I wanted to get your thoughts. The iron Redux flow. You’ve talked about that before. I believe

I’ve touched on in a video in the past, actually a couple different videos. I brought it up, but I’ve never done a dedicated video on flow batteries, but I’m currently working on one, right?

So there’s gonna be one coming up in the weeks ahead around this technology specifically, cuz flow batteries are fascinating. They are absolutely fascinating and amazing energy storage technology. That’s very efficient. It’s made for materials that you don’t have to do rare earth mining for. It’s like, it’s got a bunch of, kind of win-wins for it.

Yeah. But there’s a whole host of controversies around it because like, Not iron, but like Vinatium Redux flow batteries are one of the more promising looking things. And China basically has the, that kind of cornered because of manufacturing and production and all those kind of things. And there’s another story that we’re digging into around how the United States had a major breakthrough for.

The chemistry of a specific of the specific electrolytes used in a flow battery that don’t degrade over time. And they’re incredibly amazing. And we basically gave the patents away to China. yeah, that’s good. Us tax dollars, health and China. That’s great. Um, so there’s an, there’s a fascinating story around that that I wanna dive into as well.

So like, I’m gonna be talking about this in the future, but yes, he’s, he’s a hundred percent correct that flow batter. Do have greater efficiencies. The question is in my mind costs. So it’s like, I’ve brought this up before of, yeah. You may have a technology that’s more efficient than technology. X may be more efficient than technology.

Y but if it costs twice as much or three times as much, it’s it doesn’t make sense. It’s like, you can’t just take efficiency on its own. You have to look at the whole picture. So like, that’s the big question, mark for me. Are flow batteries, not only more efficient, are they more cost effective? Are they, you know, easier to maintain, like what’s the operational costs.

It’s like, there’s a whole bunch of hosts of things. Mm-hmm . But even that in dictating that into account doesn’t mean that these CO2 batteries won’t have a major role to play because there’s definitely scenarios where this may make far more sense than a flow battery and vice versa. So. It’s like, I’m a, I’m a fan of throw everything against the wall and seeing what sticks.

Yeah. Yeah. So it’s like, I’m definitely a

fan of this, I think too, that there’s real value in the speed of setup of something that is using these technologies that already exist and could very quickly, you know, if they’re able to get their out of their testing phase and into their real world, this is now a functioning thing they’ve got.

You mentioned the, the deals they have set up, including with the second largest energy producer in Italy, the idea that they could start farming this out to other locals and have these things set up rather quickly. Yeah, the real estate being probably the biggest question, mark. And from what you said in your video, it sounds like less than 10% of the land for.

Power supply site would be used by the bladder effectively. Like the rest of it could be your solar panels. Um, it’s a small add-on

it’s essentially very

small. Add-on right. Yep. And there was this comment in that. Vein from Jim who wrote regarding the space requirement of the storage bladder. Yes. That uses up quite a bit of surface areas shown here, but that doesn’t have to be a problem because this is just a pilot plant.

Once the maximum extent of inflation of the dome is established. You could simply design a solid stricture to be built over the dome, which then could be fitted with photovoltaic panels, thereby reclaiming some of the surface area for energy production on top of the energy storage. And I was wondering.

Had they spoken to that in particular, because it did really seem like, okay, you’ve got this dome. And I was thinking about some of the other technology you’ve talked about, like basically flexible, full solar panels, the idea of some kind of surface cover. You could wrap it of that, but you could wrap it with something and it could be one gigantic panel.

Which would also have the advantage of looking like a really giant beetle. And I think that would be kinda cool but there was no discussion of that. And in my mind, I’m thinking, well, then you’re not really talking about a loss of seven to 8% of your terrain to the storage facility. You’re just talking about the type of photovoltaic capture.

As opposed to like, you’ve got panels over there and we’ve got our storage over here, but our storage is also capturing sunlight. So win-win yeah. We, we

didn’t talk about, didn’t talk about that at all. Yeah, we did. Yeah. We didn’t talk about that, but that is something that makes a lot of sense and it wouldn’t surprise me if they went down that path.

The other, I, I didn’t bring it up in the video, but another aspect was when we were talking, when I was talking to him, he was saying, when you talk about renewables, he said, you typically see an image of a wind. And he said, I want, I want this technology to be so ubiquitous that when you talk about renewables, you see that photo of wind farm, and then you see one of our domes, right.

At the base of one of the turbines. That’s what they’re striving to get to. Right. To make this just a ubiquitous technology, which I, I really admire that view. Yeah. But when you’re talking about like land area, I didn’t talk about it in the sense of a wind turbine farm, because you can’t build wind turbines right next to each other.

They have to be a certain distance apart, right. This could sit right between some wind turbines it’s like, so it’s, there’s, there’s all this kind of ways that you can look at it to make efficient use of space and lining it with solar panels, which would also help offset whatever energy costs it takes to run the facility.

So it’s yeah, there’s, there’s a whole bunch of win-wins and different ways you could look at it, but yeah, I love that.

Yeah. The, the idea of, of, you know, wanting people to have in their mind, when you say renewable energy and they see a wind turbine mm-hmm and then maybe one of these domes next to it.

It’s sort of evocative for me of when you say something like. Imagine a farm and somebody’s got their image of a farm and you ask them to describe it. They’re not going to say, well, it’s a barn by itself. Maybe it’s gonna be a barn and a silo and some cows and some chickens. There is all sorts of details within that one concept that people carry within them.

I think it’s very interesting. And I think it’s, it speaks of his vision in saying I want us to be a part of that imagined. Concept that overall thing, as opposed to just, we want to make this product, they want to be identified as part of the solution in that way. And I think that that speaks well of the, the vision with which they’re moving forward.

I also liked this comment and I wanted to bring it up because I don’t. I, and let me clarify, I do not expect you to have numbers at the ready to be able to answer this question. Oh, but I think it would be really cool if you did. This is from Damon off. Who writes? I think it’s extremely noteworthy. That using this for grid storage, as opposed to batteries has the advantage of freeing up more of the batteries for things like vehicles.

Mm-hmm , here’s my question, which I do not expect you to be able to answer okay.

Do we know what percentage of like lithium batteries are headed toward. These large scale storage versus those materials being able to be used for other purposes in effect, if this does become more ubiquitous, how much of the demand for lithium shifts completely over to car manufacturing and other forms of lithium battery storage, which would make more sense.

You’re not going to have one of these air bladders in your. although, imagine driving down the road with one of these air bladders dragging behind you and again, to go back to my beetle image, imagine you’ve got one of these bladders behind you, and you’ve got little mechanical legs on the side. So as you’re driving down the highway, it looks like your car is being chased by a gigantic beetle.

They would clear the road anyway is a majority of lithium ion battery storage of this large scale. Or is a majority of the lithium. I am battery storage already on the smaller scale. I E. Your cars. Yeah. Your home, your power wall, things like

that. If you’re talking, if you wanna split it up, I don’t have these numbers off the top of my head, but in general, if you’re talking about the number of lithium batteries that go into electric vehicles versus the number of batteries, they go into grid storage, electric vehicles, dwarfs grid storage at the moment mm-hmm , um, If you just wanna look at one example, you look at Tesla, who’s obviously the largest EV manufacturer of the world.

And they’re also one of the larger manufacturers for utility scale grid storage systems. There was a period where they were, when they were make ramping up the Tesla model three, that they basically sh they didn’t shut it down, but they basically stopped really producing power walls and their mega packs because they had to.

almost all of their cell production into the model three, right? Because they didn’t have enough production to satisfy the needs for the electric vehicle side of the business. Right. That just kind of illustrates right now, there is not enough manufacturing to, to meet demand period. Right. I don’t care what company you’re talking about.

And so because of that, Depending on the company, they’re gonna pull those levers and they’re gonna drive, put those cells to where they’re gonna make the most money, the quickest. Right. And so for a company like Tesla, they’re constantly pulling that lever and changing that ratio of how much they’re directing to cars versus the grid and the grid.

And Powerwalls has gotten the short end of the stick again and again, and again and again, right? Because it’s a smaller side of the business for them right now. That’s gonna change as they’re building more of these plants and increasing product. , but we’re always going to be chasing that demand. Yeah.

Demand is just outs, stripping production. Right. And it’s gonna be that way for years to come. So yeah. I don’t see that shift changing, which is another one of the reasons why I love things like the CO2 battery, right. Because it side steps, the lithium issue

completely. Yeah. and it has the, you know, going back again to some of the things we said at the very beginning of the video, not only are the components of this, not dangerous in the form of explosive flammable, the human rights aspect that you talked about in your video.

And that’s an extremely, I think that is a critical part of this is that we have technologies that are utilized in our daily lives. And we have to turn a blind eye to human rights violations that are going on because they happen on other parts of the world. We don’t see them so out of sight, out of mind, but there are real impacts in people’s lives and technology like this, where you’re utilizing a readily available gas.

You’re utilizing a technology that is largely already existent. And you’re talking about energy production and storage on site using these things as opposed. Having to dig into the sides of mountains in parts of Africa or expecting things to be MINDD and processed that are so toxic that anybody working in those industries is guaranteed to get ill.

Something like this is a real benefit and a win from that perspective. Yep. And I wanted to end on this. I spotted a comment partway through, in a response to some other discussion on your channel. And somebody weighed in to say everything on this channel is BS and . I was like, all right, thank you, sir.

Yeah, but then I saw this one from J coop J hoop writes. I love all the options presented on this channel. The future looks bright, thanks to technology innovators and risk takers. Despite the claims of science deniers. I thought that would be a nice note to end on. So with that, We appreciate you listening.

And I hope you noticed as we were having our discussion, the discussion is really driven by the comments. So these are comments, not only on this channel, which we invite you to weigh in here about what you think about what you’ve just listened to. Do you think that you expect to see air bladders anytime soon they’re gonna be popping up in Italy.

We know that. So mm-hmm . If anybody’s planning on taking a vacation in 2024, keep an eye out. You might spot. things that look like giant beetles, giant albino beetles, exciting, but the comments on Matt’s channel are a huge part of the discussion here. So make sure you weigh in there as well. You can, of course, jump into the comments directly below this video.

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