Monday, May 07, 2012

Question: How Many Gallons of Gasoline Would it Take to Charge an iPhone?

"This may seem like a strange question to ask, considering iPhones obviously are charged with electricity, not gasoline. But the answer speaks to why gasoline and other liquid fuels will remain an important part of the energy mix in the future.

In ExxonMobil’s recently released Outlook for Energy, we predict that by 2040, about 90 percent of the global transportation fleet will still be powered by liquid petroleum fuels – that is, gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. When asked why that’s the case, Bill Colton, ExxonMobil’s vice president for Corporate Strategic Planning, often starts the discussion using this fact to put it in perspective:

All of the energy concentrated in one gallon of gasoline is enough to charge an iPhone once a day for almost 20 years.

Clearly, there’s a lot of energy in a gallon of gasoline. And energy density is one of the key factors behind the reliability, affordability, versatility and convenience of any fuel. These are key elements that drive consumer choices today and will continue to drive consumer choices in the future."

~Ken Cohen writing on the Exxon Mobil blog on Dec. 14, 2011

MP: Despite Obama's dismissal of oil as the "fuel of the past," the scientific and economic realities are that fossil fuels will play an important role in our energy future and will be the "fuels of the future" for many generations to come.  

HT: Joe and Mark Lais

Update: Here's some independent analysis that supports XOM's claim that one gallon of gasoline can charge an iPhone for at least 20 years, maybe longer. 

35 Comments:

At 5/07/2012 4:25 PM, Blogger AIG said...

Their comparison is a little problematic. How do you compare "electricity" BTUs vs gasoline? What's the "unit" of electricity being compared? They don't say this, and instead talk about "current batteries". Well, yes...but the BTUs of a unit of gasoline are fixed by the laws of nature. The amount of energy that can be stored in a battery, tends to improve over time.

So while what they are saying is 100% correct, it's obviously a sales pitch ;)

Of course, there's also hydrogen left out of that comparison. (I thought Exxon was investing in hydrogen too?)

But in the end, the right fuel isn't necessarily the one that provides the most energy per/pound or gallon or whatever, because to me it doesn't matter if one tank can take me 400 miles, or 300 miles, if my daily use is only 30 miles. It would be the one that fulfills my needs at the least cost.

 
At 5/07/2012 4:38 PM, Blogger jeppen said...

One litre of uranium-235 can charge that iPhone once per day for 238 million years.

 
At 5/07/2012 4:48 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Speaking of oil and gasoline, here's something Mark might be interested in:

Eagle Ford Output to Reach 500,000 by 2012 End, Klesse Says

The rate of increase in output from the Eagle Ford shale seems to be much faster than that of the Bakken. It took, like 5-6 years for the ND Bakken to go from exploratory stage to half-million bpd, but the Eagle Ford seems to be doing the same thing in only 3-4 years.

 
At 5/07/2012 4:55 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

Emergency Hand Crank Flashlight with Mobile Phone Adapter

 
At 5/07/2012 5:02 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

a mobile phone does not take much energy at all to charge....

I think one minute on the crank will get you 30 minutes of talk time.

 
At 5/07/2012 6:12 PM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

AIG, this is an interesting analysis on the evergy in a gallon of gasoline based on megajoules (must be some sort of energy rating):

Jeff does calculations that figures 90 years of charging for one gallon of gas. Jeff then accounts for the inefficiences in gas engines and concludes Exxon's figures are quite plausible.

 
At 5/07/2012 6:31 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 5/07/2012 6:32 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Oil may fade more quickly than Exxon (not the most unbiased source) contends.

BTW, remember speculators are not goosing oil prices.

However, if the Fed eases up on monetary policy, oil prices will shoot through the roof, due to speculation.

These are both true, if you listen to talk radio.

 
At 5/07/2012 7:02 PM, Blogger AIG said...

Jeff then accounts for the inefficiences in gas engines and concludes Exxon's figures are quite plausible
I didn't question those. I was just wondering how they did their "electricity" BTU comparison (in their bar graph). That number, seems a bit "unfair" in that electricity is a secondary energy source, while gasoline is a primary one.

Since electricity in an electric car is used to run an electric motor, the real comparison would be between the energy that is transferred to the wheel of that car...in an electric one vs an internal combustion one. A lot more energy is wasted in a conventional car design vs an electric motor. And even the generation of the electricity at a power-plant can be considerably more efficient then the engine of a car.

The numbers probably still add up in favor of gasoline internal combustion engine, but it's just not a good analyses the way they are doing it.

Ultimately I am becoming more convinced that the future is a combination of the two: a gas-powered generator running an electric motor (that is, until batteries evolve enough)

 
At 5/07/2012 7:17 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

all fossil fuels are energy dense and all "green" fuels are much less so.

if you generate electricity from coal.. it's much more energy dense than solar or wind.

if you generate it from Nukes.. it's even more dense...

 
At 5/07/2012 7:18 PM, Blogger Pulverized Concepts said...

If you ride a bike you don't have to worry about gasoline or electricity. If somebody isn't making a phone charger that's powered by the bike they will be soon.

 
At 5/07/2012 7:23 PM, Blogger Dahveed said...

Hydrocarbons are going to be a big part of the energy future for vehicles. Their only competition is plug in electrics, which is likely LESS environmentally friendly then you would think. This is largely due to the batteries and their life cycle as well as creating the electricity to charge those batteries.

A biofuel would be great since America is able to grow things well, but current biofuels take more energy to produce than they are worth and the environmental impact of growing crops can also be huge.

AIG - the reason a hybrid car is efficient is that the battery allows for the capture and storage of energy wasted in braking and allows for that energy to be put to use in acceleration. Without the battery you don't gain any efficiency.

 
At 5/07/2012 7:25 PM, Blogger juandos said...

How many minutes charging the iPad off your Chevy Volt before the battery gives out?

 
At 5/07/2012 9:12 PM, Blogger Pulverized Concepts said...

Here's one bike phone charger http://www.ikonglobal.com/ and there's a couple of others as well. Maybe I'll break down and buy a cell phone.

 
At 5/07/2012 9:53 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Aig: "Ultimately I am becoming more convinced that the future is a combination of the two: a gas-powered generator running an electric motor (that is, until batteries evolve enough)"

I'm working on a design for a car like that. The most popular name so far is "Prius", but who knows what the marketing folks will decide on by the time it hits the streets?

 
At 5/07/2012 9:58 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Dahveed: "AIG - the reason a hybrid car is efficient is that the battery allows for the capture and storage of energy wasted in braking and allows for that energy to be put to use in acceleration. Without the battery you don't gain any efficiency."

What were those engineers thinking when they designed the diesel/electric locomotive? Do you suppose direct drive through a 500 speed automatic transmission would have been more efficient?

 
At 5/07/2012 10:02 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

juandos: "How many minutes charging the iPad off your Chevy Volt before the battery gives out?"

I could have misread, but I don't think Chevy recommends driving the car and charging an electronic device at the same time. :)

 
At 5/07/2012 10:38 PM, Blogger juandos said...

" the reason a hybrid car is efficient is that the battery allows for the capture and storage of energy wasted in braking and allows for that energy to be put to use in acceleration"...

Hybrids and Hype

'...additional hybrid production has energy and environmental consequences that government policies designed to spur their sales obscure. Hybrids are generally several thousand dollars more expensive to produce than their combustion-engine-only counterparts in any event. The production and disposal of hybrids’ banks of batteries guzzle additional energy, giving rise to additional greenhouse gases'...

Well damn the bad luck!

 
At 5/07/2012 10:43 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"I could have misread, but I don't think Chevy recommends driving the car and charging an electronic device at the same time. :)"...

Exactly ron h! Exactly...:-)

 
At 5/07/2012 10:51 PM, Blogger liberal_slayer said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 5/07/2012 10:52 PM, Blogger liberal_slayer said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 5/07/2012 10:53 PM, Blogger liberal_slayer said...

The link "http://www.jefflewis.net/blog/2012/01/how_much_gas_to_charge_an_ipho.html" has a big math error in converting from lbs to kg.

Six pounds is equal to 2.72 kg (he converted the wrong way) so the total chemical energy in 1 gallon is 128.4MJ. This translates into 6788 charges or 18.6 years of daily charges. You do not need energy conversion efficiency to get the numbers to work out and using a cars' gasoline to mechanical energy conversion efficiency is bizarre because this is meaningless. A more meaningful comparison would be a gas turbine which has a much higher efficiency.

The point of the discussion is to show that the energy density in gasoline is much higher than a battery and the cost is insanely cheap since at $3.50/gallon a single penny of gasoline will charge your iphone 19 times.

 
At 5/08/2012 7:28 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

The rate of increase in output from the Eagle Ford shale seems to be much faster than that of the Bakken. It took, like 5-6 years for the ND Bakken to go from exploratory stage to half-million bpd, but the Eagle Ford seems to be doing the same thing in only 3-4 years.

What is needed is some perspective. See the problem with the Bakken? Because of the depletion issue you need a huge amount of drilling just to keep production flat.

If you want to see the future look to what happened to the highly hyped Elm Coulee field in Montana. Its great increase in production caused Montana's oil output to increase. But tight oil production does not last very long. To make the process viable you need to generate more income than it costs to get that income over the life of the wells. But as you drill more and more wells that becomes very difficult because the core areas are fully depleted and the marginal areas are not economic.

 
At 5/08/2012 9:26 AM, Blogger AIG said...

I'm working on a design for a car like that. The most popular name so far is "Prius", but who knows what the marketing folks will decide on by the time it hits the streets?
We've got a comedian here! :p No you're actually thinking of the Volt. That Prius runs differently.

 
At 5/08/2012 9:27 AM, Blogger bart said...

Great chart & data V.

Are there any decent studies out there yet that show depletion rate issues - i.e., how fast the shale/fracking wells deplete compared to 'old tech' wells?

 
At 5/08/2012 10:55 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

I am working on a car too. But I have named it not the Prius, but the Priapus.

Vange is right. It is the Volt that is a PHEV. A great idea, and if the engineering improves....oil demand will wither.

 
At 5/08/2012 12:02 PM, Blogger AIG said...

Vange is right. It is the Volt that is a PHEV.

Did...you just call ME, Vange? ughh...

 
At 5/08/2012 3:25 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Oil may fade more quickly than Exxon (not the most unbiased source) contends."

You might be surprised to learn that Exxon does long range forecasting to help make decisions about how to best direct their future efforts.

They aren't likely interested in fooling themselves about a glorious future in oil, but in realistically assessing that future as much as possible.

In the 1980s Exxon bought up tons of patents related to alternate energy sources, including wind and solar, and of course they were accused of trying to suppress potential competition.

More recently they decided they were, in fact, an oil company, and would remain one for the forseeable future. They saw no viable future in alternate sources.

It appears their forecasting has been pretty accurate, except that meddlers have insisted on including impractical soulutions in energy to the overall mix.

 
At 5/08/2012 3:59 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

AIG: "No you're actually thinking of the Volt. That Prius runs differently."

Not to be overly picky, as this subject is slightly OT anyway, but you wrote the following:

"Ultimately I am becoming more convinced that the future is a combination of the two: a gas-powered generator running an electric motor (that is, until batteries evolve enough)"

In general terms that would describe any hybrid car whether or not it can be plugged in.

I was specifically thinking of the Prius, as it is successful
example of the type of vehicle you envision, unlike the Volt, that I don't expect to see many of.

 
At 5/08/2012 6:32 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Are there any decent studies out there yet that show depletion rate issues - i.e., how fast the shale/fracking wells deplete compared to 'old tech' wells?

You can find some good analysis at the Oil Drum site but you have to realize that depletion is location dependent. Shale formations are hardly homogeneous and have very different characteristics.

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8914

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7075

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8212

Let me be clear. If you are a small operator in the core areas of a prolific formation you can make a lot of money. The problem is that most operators have marginal properties that are not profitable.

 
At 5/08/2012 6:44 PM, Blogger bart said...

Thanks V, much appreciated - and understood about depletion rate variances. It's much like 'regular' oil wells.


It seems from here that generally, the fracked wells deplete substantially faster - which was my hunch and guess, but I was far from certain.

 
At 5/09/2012 7:31 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Thanks V, much appreciated - and understood about depletion rate variances. It's much like 'regular' oil wells.

Actually, it is even worse. While different wells in different fields will deplete at different rates the variation within a conventional field is not nearly as large as the variation within a shale formation.

It seems from here that generally, the fracked wells deplete substantially faster - which was my hunch and guess, but I was far from certain.

Think of why we frack. If I look for oil there are a few things that need to be in place.

There has to be source rock. That is not an issue with shale because the shale itself contains kerogen, which can be upgraded to oil by the use of pressure and heat. The oil and gas we get out of shale do not come from the shale but from another source rock that has made it to a deeper level where the pressure and heat did their job.

Then there is the cap rock. The oil and gas that migrate from the source rock are dispersed and need an impervious cap to make it worth your while to get a concentrated resource.

Then there is the reservoir rock, which contains the oil and gas that is kept from escaping by the cap rock and comes from the source rock. Good reservoir rock has open pores that can hold the oil and gas. But if you think of pumice you know that open pores are not enough. You also need these pores to be connected so that there is a viable path that will permit flow.

Shale is bad on these last counts. The pores are tiny and not well connected. This is where the fracking comes in. By producing cracks in the formation they allow any oil or gas to make it to the pipe. The trouble is that once the oil or gas are extracted you need to create another set of pathways to stimulate further production. This is why shale is so uneconomic and why the depletion rates are so high. If you do the math you run into a huge supply chain problem that enriches the drillers while it robs profits or increases losses that accrue to the producers.

 
At 5/09/2012 10:23 AM, Blogger bart said...

Actually, it is even worse. While different wells in different fields will deplete at different rates the variation within a conventional field is not nearly as large as the variation within a shale formation. .

Makes sense, thanks again.




Amen on all the surrounding issues like cap rock, wildly varying porosity and pathways, weird cost tradeoffs, etc.

Shale seems at best to be of some help to cushion the various shocks during the extended peak cheap oil period. It sure isn't the first nor last time when the economics of a project or meme are in rose colored glasses mode.

 
At 5/09/2012 10:46 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Amen on all the surrounding issues like cap rock, wildly varying porosity and pathways, weird cost tradeoffs, etc.

Shale seems at best to be of some help to cushion the various shocks during the extended peak cheap oil period. It sure isn't the first nor last time when the economics of a project or meme are in rose colored glasses mode.


Let me be clear. I am not saying that the small producers in the good areas can't make money. I am not even saying that eventually there won't be a way to make shale profitable. What I am saying is that the evidence so far shows that the average shale formation is not marginal. That means that we have to write down sharply the estimated reserves and have to see through the high EURs being given by companies in light of production data that shows that they are not justified.

I think that in his eagerness to find an optimistic message Mark has hyped up a sector that does not deserve it. For the record, some very smart people who I talk to are bullish on shale gas and oil. But their bullishness is not unconditional and does not apply to the average shale formation. And they are also as concerned as I am about the logistics issues that will come up with the supply chain if the companies continue to maintain production at these levels.

 
At 5/09/2012 1:34 PM, Blogger bart said...

Fair enough. I was looking more at precisely what you noted - the reserves and depletion issues, plus "excess" enthusiasm.

I'm sure there are many profitable producers, and many more to come... and it's also vaguely reminiscent on the longer term of the California gold rush.

 

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