The Strategist

Oil companies increase investment in electric batteries

02/20/2019 - 11:07

Last week, Shell became another major oil and gas company that bet on electric batteries.

Lee Jordan
Lee Jordan
The British-Dutch giant announced purchase of German startup Sonnen, the leader in intelligent systems and energy storage for households. This is a new, but extremely promising direction in the market, especially against the backdrop of ambitious state projects on renewable energy sources in many countries around the world.

Accumulation and storage of energy in households did not receive the same attention as electric cars, but they certainly have a great future, mainly due to the growing popularity of solar panels on the roof of residential buildings in Europe, Australia and North America, as well as lower prices for solar panels’ batteries.

However, as Quartz analyst Akshat Rathi points out, initial costs for such complexes are still quite high. For example, the popular Tesla Powerwall costs about $ 7,800, and that does not include installation costs, which can vary from $ 2 thousand to $ 8 thousand.

Despite this, Shell’s purchase is another confirmation that the global oil and gas giants are very interested in electric batteries and renewable energy sources. Thus, Total, another European oil giant, is actively expanding its presence in the power supply battery sector. In 2016, the concern acquired Saft, a leading developer of batteries for various sectors of the economy, including energy storage and storage for households.

Last year, as part of its investment program in high-tech and energy start-ups (for which $ 160 million was allocated), Total acquired a stake in another battery maker, US-based firm Ionic Materials.

"We decided to invest in Ionic Materials in order to study more closely the technology, which may be one of the most promising for the development of solid-state batteries or solid electrolyte batteries," said the French oil giant’s representative.

Solid-state batteries are a unique segment in the battery sector. Their supporters believe that the technology can replace lithium-ion batteries with liquid electrolytes and thereby solve the flammability problem, notes.

Ionic Materials has developed solid polymer batteries in which there is no liquid electrolyte. In addition, these batteries, the company claims, are more durable and have a larger capacity than lithium-ion samples, which makes them very promising.

BP also invests in rechargeable batteries. Last year, the British giant announced purchase of a $ 20 million stake in StoreDot, the developer of ultra-fast battery charging technology.

Accumulation and storage of energy is undoubtedly an extremely promising market. However, at the moment the high cost of the technology prevents its mass use, but this problem is likely to be solved soon, as many companies are trying to make it cheaper.

This year, according to Wood Mackenzie, the global battery capacity will increase to almost 8 GWh, while the United States (market leader) accounts for 21% of the total growth. Next on the list is South Korea (16%), followed by China (15% increase in storage capacity). In 2018, the growth rate almost doubled. Electric batteries are a rapidly growing market, and those who enter it earlier will have a significant advantage over the latecomers.