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Lithium Ion Batteries Made of Oil

Lithium Ion batteries are made of petrochemical oil derivatives, the LiPo case material, electrolyte, separator film, the chemical additives, cell wraps, labels, BMS board components, and the plastic housing of the BMS. 

Big oil thinks lithium ion batteries are funny!

The petrochemical sector finds lithium ion batteries amusing, especially LiPo batteries widely used in consumer electronics, electric vehicles, and in energy storage systems mated to wind and solar panel installations. The oil sectors collecting a portion of the profit generated by every lithium ion battery sale!

18650 Cells

The 18650 lithium cell is made of a petrochemical coated stainless steel case, with petrochemical gaskets to keep everything happening inside the cell safe. Able to withstand tremendous internal case pressure, a well engineered 18650 is much stronger than plastic LiPO cells used on consumer electronics, improving battery safety in high power applications, like the Pansonic Lithium Ion NCA (Nickel Cobalt Aluminum) 18650 cells used in every Tesla Model S, Model X and Model 3.

Plastic LiPO cells are used in smartphones because they are thin, light, and have the greatest energy density performance, making possible a smaller lighter battery in sleeker phones. In larger higher power applications the 18650 IMR and high rate NCA batteries are more common. Batteries are made with petrochemicals throughout their manufacturing process, especially the  cell wraps, insulator films, gaskets, plastics, oily electrolytes, and chemical additives that improve cell safety and cycle life; all petrochemical derivatives.

Cradle to Grave Considered

If you think about the lifecycle of a battery, the materials used in the construction become important because of how the materials will be processed during end of life recycling. Plastics and metals are both recyclable, so are oily chemicals, so lithium ion batteries can be feasibly recycled. Large format packs have a residual value for reused in other applications. Electric vehicle batteries from wrecked newer electric vehicles are often reworked into home energy storage batteries that are mated to wind or solar generation capacity.

The petrochemical contributes to the Flammability of Lithium Ion Cells!

The lithium cell materials are the reason lithium ion batteries can catch fire. The Anodes Lithium Cobalt will react energetically with water, and the cathode is made of flammable carbon, the electrolyte an oil that is flammable, and the polymer separator film also flammable. In LiPO cells the case materials, stickers and labels are flammable. Lithium battery fires are no picnic, not when a cell phone burns up in someones pocket, not when a hoverboard burns someones house down, and not when a Tesla Model S catches fire after an accident. The batteries are flammable because of all the petrochemicals they contain in various different forms, even so it is possible to design fireproof lithium ion batteries, just ask Boeing about their 787 :P

LiCo Lithium Cobalt

Consider the (Lithium Cobalt : Carbon) battery at the core of every smartphone, tablet, ultrabook, and many other portable energy storage systems. The electrolyte is a petrochemical oil making up the core for the chemical ion electron exchange between the anode LiCo and the cathode C or carbon : graphite or hard carbon. Petrochemical additives in the electrolyte help to reduce the negative impacts that side reactions have on cycle life, improving the long term performance of the cells. The membrane separator is an engineered petrochemical plastic like film that creates a porous separator to isolate the anode from the cathode in order to prevent mechanical cell shorting, while allowing ion transfer to enabling the electrochemical functioning of the cell.

The Upstream Processes Powered by Petrochemical Fuels

The lithium and cobalt are mined using Diesel powered heavy industrial equipment. The shipping and distribution of the raw materials, intermediate materials, components, and finished lithium ion battery goods all accomplished using trucks powered by diesel, a petrochemical. This oil dominated materials, chemicals, processing, logistics, distribution, retail sales recovery vehicles, the trains, planes, trucks and vans of the world moving people and stuff, almost entirely fueled by oil, by petrochemical fuels that covert chemical energy into the power to do things, the materials to create things, the energy needed to mine, move, processes and create so many different products in the world today. Oil energy and materials throughout the supply chain of lithium ion batteries!

Everything Can Be Recycled

Recyclable plastics from oil. Oil can be turned into asphalt for roads that are endlessly recyclable. Lithium ion batteries made of petrochemicals and metals are easier to recycle because their components can be recycled. All chemistry in the world is actually recycled. When you die, all the materials that make up your body become part of the earth again; Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, as we begin life we so shall return. All the chemistry of life recycled over and over again, especially water molecules!

Cheap oil

When oil is traded at $30 per barrel today, that is because of the industrial scale on which oil is extracted from the earth. This process is not sustainable because the oil in earths crust is a finite chemical feedstock that is being depleted more rapidly every year. This means that in the future oil prices will steadily climb! Oil companies will reduce production volumes in the face of increasing demand, and the price will climb. As the worlds oil feedstock supplies dwindle, the price pressure will increase. Today the production of oil has been greatly improved by fracking, otherwise known as precision horizontal drilling technology, it is now possible in 2016 to render a barrel of oil from an old oil well in the USA for $19. This is causing a massive economic change in the oil sector world wide, hard hitting countries like Saudi Arabia because of their economic dependance on the trading of oil!

Oil Limitations

Oil is a limited, finite natural resource that is being depleted because of how useful it is to produce so many different chemicals, and as a source of energy in engines of all kinds. Oil is the worlds largest commodity market, because of the nearly ubiquitous applications of petrochemicals of all kinds! This means that more people in more places will continue to use oil for all kinds of things, especially in material science to build graphene and carbon fiber on an industrial scale that makes these high performance materials more feasible to use in more applications.

Modern Isolated Indigenous People

A few thousand people in the Amazonian rainforest live completely isolated from modern high technology society today, living as people lived millions of years ago. Most of the human world has been completely transformed by innovations, science, and technology. The ubiquity of oil in so many sectors, so many products, and so many aspects of our life that even battery electric cars depend on oil products in their batteries, cable insulators, chemicals used in composites, the prescription drugs that Tesla's employees take made of oil. You cannot actually get away from oil, oil pollutants, plastic pollution, micro plastics, polymers, lubricants, paints, glue and adhesive of all kinds, films, coatings, plastics of all kinds, the band of my fitbit, the body of my digital cameras, they keys of the keyboard I am typing on, oil products everywhere, even the carpet in my home, made of plastics derived from oil, many of my clothes made of synthetic fabrics made from petrochemicals, pesticides in the garage to kill ants made of petrochemicals. 

The miracle of modern chemistry finds its foundation in the ubiquitous precursor, oil. Oils are actually remarkable, like other materials and substance, the worlds has many oils today. A lot of plants make oils and fats that can replace petrochemical oils, we can even power diesel farming equipment and heavy long haul trucks with processed plant oils, like peanut oil. Biodiesel is all about making diesel fuels from plant products, namely recycled cooking oil. Many of the petrochemical products are made from oil because crude oil provides the cheapest precursors, the most variety of precursors, and the greatest available quantities of most precursors and chemicals in general. Oil is the worlds largest commodity because it can be used in almost any application, a bewildering array of different applications. From lithium ion batteries, to hair spray, its petrochemicals all around us! 

94% of Earth Vehicles run on Oil Fuels in 2030

Electric cars making only a tiny dent in the global vehicle market today, even as their use expands to 10% of all passenger vehicles in perhaps a decade, 99% of airplanes, long haul trucks and trucks of many types and 90% of all the worlds passenger vehicles will still burn petrochemicals fuels like diesel, gasoline, jet fuel, natural gas, propane, butane, and all sorts of other petrochemical alkane fuels like Hexane or Isobutane! All the farm equipment used the world over powered by diesel fuels today, the food that fuels the human experience, powerful life in civilization! 

Oil Glut To End 

Oil prices will rise because of many factors, not limited to instability in the middle east, dwindling global oil supplies, and increasing global oil demand in the future. Over time the economics of oil based fuels will become less feasible, as battery technology improves, even aircraft will become electric in the future. We have a long way to go, many years of oil left, today a global oil glut causing the prices to stay low, but that glut will end! As the oil glut ends, oil prices will rebound to the $100 per barrel level. From there it will be decades before electric, plug in hybrid, and hybrid vehicles replace most of the ICE only petrochemicals vehicles of today. The tires, the streets, oil will continue to be used to make other parts of infrastructure in the future. 

Oil to Carbon Fiber

It is remarkable how oil is used to make carbon fiber, especially in cars like the BMW I3, which is essentially a collection of plastic hot glue lamented carbon fiber fabrics, cooked in a special electro-hydronic hot mechanical clamp press oven, so that BMW can crank out the carbon fiber body shell every 3 minutes. This was a dramatic improvement over the aerospace method of 5 hours in an autoclave vacuum bag setup. This enabled BMW to build a feasible carbon fiber frame. Time is money, so 3 minutes works, 5hrs does not, well not for a practically priced consumer vehicle. To build the BMW i3 out of carbon fiber, BMW had to work to invent new ways to bake together the carbon fibers into hot plastics that could setup quickly. Carbon fiber reinforced plastics or CFRP, making super high performance affordable products like the BMW i3. Ironically the BMW i3 is made with more oil than a metal car of the same dimensions. The entire material processing stream, chemical components, and manufacturing of carbon fiber integrally linked to petrochemicals via PAN fiber that is cooked to make the carbon fibers. The reason that oil is so useful as as chemical source stems from the carbon chemistry present in crude oil, linked chains of hydro-carbons that can become so many different products. 


Today we are more concerned with electrons than burning oil. Imaging if your phone had a gas tank and a tail pipe! Electrons at the core of all chemistry, part of the elemental construction of all things, electrons, protons and neutrons making up all energy and matter in the universe. Electrons are one of the three fundamental atomic particles, and we are going to move away from burning carbon as a society, to using petrochemicals in super higher performance applications like the Tesla Model S, where electrons are used to perform the heavy lifting, from lithium ion batteries made with petrochemicals. We can use the oil and petrochemicals in high value added applications, where the materials can be recycled. The oil is more valuable as petrochemicals! 

1 comment:

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