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Shipping energy with battery super tankers?

Etna

Member
Jan 31, 2017
378
5,566
Québec City
I was thinking about the viability of Saudi Arabia exporting its electricity from its gigantic solar plan with battery ships the size of TI class supertankers.

I know it is a crazy idea, that's why I had to run the numbers and.... it does not work financially. At all.

Technically it is viable. For example with 0.3 kWh/kg batteries the ship would spend 30% of its capacity to go on a 17 days return trip from Saudi Arabia to Japan, or some similar place where real estate and/or sun is scarce.

However, financially it is a total disaster. Assuming 200$/kWh on this 440000 tons / 120000 MWh battery pack, we'd end up with a battery cost of 24 billion dollars. Revenues would never cover the financing costs, since the value of the delivered energy would be about 4 million $ at 5 cents / kWh. As a comparison, a supertanker costs about 120 millions and carries 3.1 million barrels of crude oil valued at about 186 million $.

Even with salt based batteries the math does not work out. The ship is 100 times too expensive and it should generate 50 times more revenue, so we're off by a factor of 5000 for financial viability.

Just wanted to share this, I thought it was fun although I am a bit disappointed in the end.

 

ItsNotAboutTheMoney

Well-Known Member
Jul 12, 2012
10,771
7,987
Maine
The reason batteries can work for use _in_ transportation is that electricity is cheap, electric motors are great and their competition is inefficient.

But using them to _transport_ energy is not going to be a good business. It's much cheaper to transport electricity through wires, using HVDC for transportation of large amounts over very long distances.

Although electricity is cheap, variability of electricity demand is expensive, and mismatch between production and demand is expensive.
So batteries also have potential value helping to deal with those problems.
 
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Etna

Member
Jan 31, 2017
378
5,566
Québec City
Agreed - submarine HVDC like NorNed run at 1 million Euro per km which is pocket change comparatively, 440000 tons of batteries can buy several thousands of km instead. I was wondering if there was any long term hope for financial viability but the gap seems hopeless.

This also highlights the capital cost issue of electric powered shipping. Technically it can be done today but it will take a breakthrough of multiple magnitudes before it becomes financially viable (not counting short range ferries).
 

nwdiver

Well-Known Member
Feb 17, 2013
8,280
10,944
United States
This also highlights the capital cost issue of electric powered shipping. Technically it can be done today but it will take a breakthrough of multiple magnitudes before it becomes financially viable (not counting short range ferries).

I think that 'skysails' combined with have a PV cap for container ships could make electric cargo ships feasible. If someone REALLY wanted to 'ship energy' by a ship the best way would probably be Power to Gas and use a LNG tanker... but yeah, HVDC is the best solution.

On a side note I think it's interesting that AC got a reputation for being better for long-distance transmission when DC is actually ~30% better for the same voltage. AC is just (was?) easier to step up and step down.
 

TheTalkingMule

Distributed Energy Enthusiast
Oct 20, 2012
7,235
27,723
Philadelphia, PA
It's proving difficult to make money manufacturing the panels that literally make electricity, I don't think anything like this will ever work. We'll have electricity coming out our ears from here on out.
 
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nwdiver

Well-Known Member
Feb 17, 2013
8,280
10,944
United States
It's proving difficult to make money manufacturing the panels that literally make electricity, I don't think anything like this will ever work. We'll have electricity coming out our ears from here on out.

I predict we'll reach 'god parity' for most locations within ~10 years. For most places it'll be cheaper to generate electricity locally from solar than the cost to transmit it.
 
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TheTalkingMule

Distributed Energy Enthusiast
Oct 20, 2012
7,235
27,723
Philadelphia, PA
Agreed. I'm quite anxious to see the result of distributed and grid level storage on the German electricity market. If they can "trickle-transport" massive amounts of wind and solar around without too much additional line build out, then anything's possible. So nice to know they're just gonna do this on their own in their own interest(probably as we speak).
 

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