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Fossil Fuels Critical for National Defense

June 9, 2015

Make no mistake, war and combat operations are wasteful.

The objective is to win with the fewest possible casualties, not save money or material.

During peacetime it’s important to save money while maintaining a powerful military, but the objective isn’t to save money, it’s to have a powerful military capable of winning any war or eliminate any threat the United States confronts.

Deterrence is an important mission, but potential adversaries only recognize military strength. Weakness begets unnecessary confrontations.

Today, we have emerging situations in the South China Sea and in the Baltic nations, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, where any sign of weakness might invite an unnecessary confrontation.

Fossil fuels are critical to ensuring that the military can win.

Attempting to substitute biofuels and other alternatives for fossil fuels threatens the military’s ability to win, while wasting money on needless research and development of alternative fuels.

Biofuels for the military are a luxury we cannot afford.

The president’s executive orders have mandated that Federal Agencies, including the Department of Defense, adopt the use of renewables. While this mandate is limited to facilities in the United States, the money spent unnecessarily by the DOD to meet the mandate detracts from DOD’s ability to fund important military operations, manpower and equipment.

Executive Orders have mandated prescribed amounts of electricity and energy be provided by renewables, but includes the option of allowing agencies to buy renewable energy certificates (RECs) in-lieu of obtaining renewable energy or installing renewable generating equipment on site.

Power generation from natural gas is far cheaper than using alternatives. Buying RECs uses DOD dollars that are badly needed to bolster the United States military.

Executive Order 13514 resulted in establishing the Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan (SSPP) by the Department of Defense.

Executive Order 13653 said, “building on these efforts, each agency shall develop or continue to develop, implement, and update comprehensive plans that integrate consideration of climate change into agency operations and overall mission objectives and submit those plans to CEQ and OMB for review.”

DOD’s 2014 Climate Change Adaption Roadmap embodies many of these Executive Order requirements.

What’s more important, winning a war or cutting CO2 emissions?

In its recently published Chinese Military Strategy white paper, China makes no mention of CO2 and global warming. It declares that China’s military mission is to:

“Adhere to the principle of the CPC’s absolute leadership, uphold combat effectiveness as the sole and fundamental standard, [with a people’s military] that can fight and win.” (Emphasis added.)

China understands the military’s mission, and doesn’t burden it with defending against climate change.

In the United States, Congress debates the military’s share of the budget, while money that should be available for the military is being used to cut CO2 emissions.

Secretary of the Navy Mabus established goals for the Navy and Marine Corps requiring that half of all naval energy needs be supplied by alternative sources.

What is the purpose of such a requirement when there are plentiful sources of fossil fuels available for the navy’s ships and air arm? The price of oil fluctuates, but surely there is a better way to control costs than to spend money on developing high cost biofuels.

Headline from U.S. Navy Web Site

Headline from U.S. Navy Web Site

Biofuels cannot be produced in sufficient quantities to supply the Navy’s ships, so why waste time and money on Mabus’ pet project, a carrier strike group powered only by biofuels and nuclear energy, a so-called Great Green Fleet? Even if biofuels could be produced in quantity, it would add complexity to distributing fuel to Navy ships around the world.

Yet, deliveries of biofuels will start in 2015, involving DOD’s single largest bulk fuels acquisition program valued in excess of $3.5 billion.

Here is what RAND, an independent research organization, concluded about whether DOD should spend money on alternative fuels.

The RAND report opens with the following statement:

“Over the past few years, the U.S. Department of Defense has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the development, testing, and certification of alternative fuels that can substitute for petroleum-derived fuels used by the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, and Air Force in their tactical weapon systems.”
(Emphasis added.)

The Rand report went on to say, “Within the United States, the prospects for commercial production of alternative fuels that have military applications remain highly uncertain, especially over the next decade.”

Obviously, the prospects for alternative fuel availability overseas is virtually nil.

Here is their conclusion found on page 83:

“Findings on Military Use of Alternative Fuels”

“There is no direct benefit to the Department of Defense or the services from using alternative fuels rather than petroleum-derived fuels.”

Diverting the attention of the military from being prepared to defend the United States from any foreign enemy, by having it spend time and money attempting to cut CO2 emissions, is a terrible policy, and could be tragic if the military is unable to win any war in which the United States becomes engaged.

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Why Environmentalists Hate Natural Gas

June 5, 2015

The dream of extreme environmentalists is to force people to use energy sources the extreme environmentalists deem suitable. Their desire is to mandate how people live, i’e., green communities, how much energy they use, and how energy is produced.

In short, curtail individual freedom.

Proof of their intent was the Waxman-Markey Bill that would have imposed draconian restrictions on Americans freedom, extending from the motors that could be used to forcing people to conform to energy usage in their homes. The 1,400 word Bill that failed in the Senate, is available here, https://www.congress.gov/bill/111th-congress/house-bill/2454

The only thing really standing in the way of extreme environmentalists is natural gas.

Their dream energy sources of solar and wind cannot achieve the same level of cost and reliability as electricity generated from natural gas.

I can hear the protests from the acolytes now, but even the Energy Information Administration (EIA) knows that electricity from solar and wind are more expensive than natural gas today, and will continue to be in 2019.

The EIA is biased toward wind and solar, yet their LCOE estimates for 2019, four years from now, are:

  • Natural Gas Combined Cycle 6 cents/kWh
  • Wind, onshore 8 cents/kWh
  • Wind, offshore 20 cents/kWh
  • PV solar 13 cents/kWh
  • Concentrating solar 24 cents/kWh

That’s the data published at http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/electricity_generation.cfm

But in reading the data more carefully, note that onshore wind is given a capacity factor of 35%, while in actuality it has been 30% or less, which means the forecast is biased toward wind.

But this begs the question: Why is a U.S. Government agency publishing distorted information rather that current factual information?

Furthermore, what validity do their projections have when its clear the EIA is biased?

And this data ignores the fact that wind and solar are intermittent, actually unreliable in so far as the grid operators are concerned, because grid operators can’t rely with certainty that wind and solar will be there when they need it.

Why is it that extreme environmentalists consistently claim wind and solar generated electricity will be less costly … someday in the future?

Meanwhile, natural gas power generation equipment improves over time which lowers its cost.

Gas turbine power plant. Photo by D. Dears

Gas turbine power plant. Photo by D. Dears

Wind and solar are likely to remain more expensive for decades to come, while also requiring huge uneconomic investments in storage.

Without storage the green system will fail. See, The Duck Speaks Part 1,  and Part 2.

The savvy extreme environmentalists know this, which is why they have declared war on natural gas.

They know that low cost natural gas is plentiful in the United States, and will become more plentiful worldwide. See, New Age Dawning.

They also know that with methane hydrates the age of natural gas can extend for centuries. See, Natural Gas Bonanza from Hydrates.

For extreme environmentalists to succeed, they must stop the development and use of natural gas.

That is why there is a constant flow of propaganda in the media about the supposed terrible consequences of fracking; climate altering methane emissions from natural gas pipelines; supposed catastrophic consequences of climate change; coupled with a constant stream of misleading information about how wind and solar will, someday, be low cost producers of electricity.

Most Americans are astute, and will see through the bogus claims of extreme environmentalists.

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New Age of Natural Gas

June 2, 2015

While the past century may have been known as the age of coal, this century is likely to be named the age of natural gas.

Coal will remain one of the main sources of energy around the world for decades to come, but natural gas will gradually supplant it, because fracking has made natural gas cheaper to produce and because natural gas is cleaner.

The United States has been the leader in developing fracking, but other countries have shale resources and are seeking ways to utilize fracking.

Argentina has large shall resources and is beginning to develop them.

China is reportedly encouraging foreign companies to enter the market to develop shale gas using fracking.

China Shale Basins

China Shale Basins

China also has several LNG import facilities in place.

The UK is on the verge of developing its shale gas resources.

And the United States is preparing to unleash its huge resources of natural gas on the world.

The first liquified natural gas (LNG) tanker is to leave the Sabine Pass LNG export facility this December.

This will change the world forever.

It will mean that inexpensive natural gas, not tied to the price of oil, will be available throughout the world.

And the Department of Energy just approved the fifth export facility at Corpus Christie, Texas, scheduled to begin LNG shipments in 2018.

Bloomberg said, “Cheniere, the operator of Sabine Pass, expects the U.S. to produce 74 million metric tons of LNG by 2020. That’s about 22 percent of expected global output by 2019. Only Qatar and Australia will produce more.”

The United States has vast reserves of natural gas that can be released using fracking.

While natural gas rig counts are currently at around 220 they can be quickly ramped up to 300 or more as demand increases.

The Potential Gas Committee said, “The United States possesses a total technically recoverable resource base of 2,515 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) as of year-end 2014. This is the highest resource evaluation in the Committee’s 50-year history.”

An earlier article explained why these reserves can supply all the United States requirements while still exporting natural gas for the rest of this century. See, Do We Have Enough Natural Gas?

Natural gas from the United States can disrupt the market in Europe, and displace expensive Russian natural gas.

Japan can turn to liquified natural gas (LNG) rather than coal for its power generation needs, as it has few reserves of either natural gas or coal.

As Argentina and China develop their shale gas reserves, most of the major economies of the world will be served by natural gas rather than coal, or any other energy source.

Countries such as Indonesia and India that have large reserves of coal are likely to continue to use coal for generating electricity, but most other major population areas will increasingly rely on natural gas.

Fracking, a technology developed in America, is changing the world.

And eventually, the huge supplies of natural gas found on the ocean floor as methane hydrates will be developed, continuing the age of natural gas into the next century, and possibly beyond. See, Natural Gas Bonanza from Hydrates.

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Picture of Dorian Gray and Renewables

May 29, 2015

The picture of Dorian Gray is a story about a young man who commits heinous crimes, but never seems to age. Unknown to all who know Dorian Gray, there is a portrait of him stored in an empty upstairs room that records every crime as a blemish on his body. The face becomes increasingly hideous as each scar, worm and deformity is added to the portrait with the commission of each crime.

Meanwhile, Dorian Gray goes through life looking as he did when he was twenty years old.

He retains his youthful look and zeal while the painting relentlessly records his true grotesque soul.

1890 magazine cover with Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

1890 magazine cover with Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The picture of Dorian Gray is an apt metaphor for today’s drive for renewables.

There is a constant stream of information describing renewables, such as wind and solar, as providing profound benefits to mankind.

It’s the image of a young Dorian Gray.

The picture is always of a youthful technology, without blemishes, that is beguiling people with promises of an everlasting environmentally pure future. It seeks out new followers, just as Dorian Gray did as he cast around the streets for his next victim.

But the real picture of renewables is hidden from view, just as Dorian Gray’s picture was hidden in the upstairs room.

In this instance, the picture is hidden behind rhetoric and a lack of technical knowledge among the audience being beguiled with fanciful stories.

The huge cost of developing storage and other facilities required to accommodate renewables is not mentioned by Dorian Gray’s protégés as they expound upon the benefits of renewables.

Similarly, the future cost of electricity is brushed aside as not important, when in fact, reports, such as by an independent advisory panel, project higher electricity costs, over and above those estimates made by the advocates of renewables. See https://ethree.com/documents/Advisory_Panel_Report_on_the_CA_RPS_Study_FINAL_1-2014.pdf

The huge new capital costs and the much higher electricity rates are monstrous blemishes on the picture hidden from the public.

The potential eventuality of privately run utilities being replaced by a government monopoly, run by bureaucrats, is never mentioned, and hidden from public view. See, The Duck Speaks.

In the old days, people were taken in by snake oil salesmen brandishing magic elixirs with a shill in the crowd to stimulate sales.

Today, the story is more sophisticated, relying on glitz and glamour, superficial and misleading promises, and fawning acolytes, today’s shills, such as was the case with Tesla’s introduction of the Powerwall and Powerblock batteries.

It’s time for people to start asking about the hidden picture, the one with all the blemishes and distortions, and learn about the added costs, the need for higher taxes for government operated utilities and the loss of freedom that renewables, and their related activities, such as demand response and mandated efficiency requirements, are bound to bring.

 

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China and Oil

May 26, 2015

China’s history is lost in antiquity.

Prior to the 19th century, China’s rulers did not think of China in terms of being a modern nation state … it was, instead, the central kingdom, a civilization due respect, if not fealty, from all who approached it. This contrasted with the West where, beginning with the treaty of Westphalia in 1648, western governments conducted trade and diplomacy based on rules governing actions between sovereign nations.

This difference in world views created a conflict based on perceptions when western navies confronted China in the 1800s.

China viewed itself as having a superior society where all other peoples were to recognize the Middle Kingdom as being superior in knowledge and culture. Neighbors were expected to recognize the blessings of acceding to the Middle Kingdom’s superiority. Suzerainty is the term that fits the situation before the arrival of western navies.

China’s view of the world worked well until the 1800s when Western powers with modern weapons intruded on the scene, disrupting the historic Middle Kingdom and sending it into political turmoil until recently.

Does modern-day Chinese leadership hold onto the classic view of China being everlasting, where the barbarians are to be assimilated by traditional methods of corruption?

Is China a civilization “pretending to be a modern nation state”?

Or do China’s leaders believe it is a modern nation state, conducting trade and diplomacy using the rules established by the West?

Since Deng Xiaoping, China has become an economic powerhouse: A member of the world trade organization, with favored nation status from the United Sates.

With economic development, China’s need for resources, such as oil and natural gas, have grown.

The Oil and Gas Journal reported, “In total, the South China Sea has about 11 billion bbl of oil and 190 tcf of gas rated as proved or probable reserves. These levels are similar to the amount of proved oil reserves in Mexico and about two-thirds of the proved gas reserves in Europe, not including Russia.”

China’s claim over the South China Sea appears to have originated in the modern era, as reported in a USNI proceedings article, and not in antiquity.

“In the 1930s, China’s Republican government formed the Land and Water Maps Inspection Committee. … The committee reported in 1935 that in the South China Sea, China’s southernmost territorial feature is the James Bank, which sits about 50 nautical miles off the coast of Borneo, and that China’s maritime boundary should therefore extend south to 4 degrees North latitude.”

However, except for the brilliant maritime missions by Zheng He to the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Africa, predating explorations by European nations, China has shown little historic interest in maritime affairs.

Regardless, China’s Ten Dash Line, specified in the 1930s, has delineated its claim on the South China Sea.

South China Sea and Key Straits

South China Sea Territorial Claim with key Straits

With oil and natural gas resources as a possible motive, China has asserted its claim over both the South and East China Seas. In addition, the three strategic straits (shown by arrows) between Sumatra and Malaysia, Sumatra and Java and at the East end of Java, restrict the flow of commerce between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.

Though not part of the current argument over the Spratlys, China views these passages as critical to China’s maritime interests.

This can be interpreted in different ways. One interpretation is that China is responsive to the concept of freedom of the seas, the American position. Alternatively, China could see the importance of these straits only from a military perspective.

Most recently the Spratly Islands, 600 miles from China’s coast, have become a cause for concern. The Spratly Islands are claimed by several countries, including China and the Philippines. Vietnam, Borneo and Malaysia also have various fishing and economic claims in the South China Sea.

With dredging, China has transformed a few rocks into an island with an airstrip. It appears to be reinforcing its claim of sovereignty over the South China Sea by establishing a physical presence where none existed before.

The United States has always believed in freedom of the seas, and China’s claim of sovereignty over the South China Sea has created a situation ripe for a military confrontation.

The United States Navy recently flew a reconnaissance mission over the Spratly Islands to reinforce its position that the South China Sea is an international waterway.

America’s allies are watching how the United States addresses this threat that also involves their interests.

China has said the rim of islands, stretching from the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands, north of Taiwan, southward, including the Philippines and Borneo, form a maritime defensive perimeter.

The defensive perimeters of islands defines China’s strategy of Anti-Access and Area Denial, which is to deny access to the South China Sea by the United States Navy.

Whether it is oil or territorial aggrandizement, China, by creating an airstrip on what was formerly a few rocks, has set the stage for confrontation.

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Tesla Powerblock and the Gigafactory

May 22, 2015

If Tesla BEVs and Powerwalls can’t use all the batteries being built in the gigafactory, can Tesla’s Powerblock save the day?

The factory was built to supply 500,000 Tesla vehicles yearly, but it’s very unlikely Tesla will reach sales of that magnitude in 2020.

The Powerwall product is virtually useless for homeowner PV rooftop installations, so only a few will be sold. The Powerwall isn’t going to use very much of the gigafactory’s capacity.

Whether the gigafactory is an economic success is likely to depend on the Powerblock using large numbers of batteries.

To start this quick analysis, let’s establish the capacity of the gigafactory after accounting for Tesla BEV sales in 2020, the year the gigafactory is to be in full operation.

Tesla’s BEV sales are elusive, but total sales in 2014 were approximately 18,000 vehicles.

Sales have been sluggish so far this year. Assuming a 30% growth rate between 2014 and 2020, sales in 2020 would be approximately 100,000 vehicles.

With sales of 100,000 BEVs in 2020, the gigafactory would have a remaining capacity for 400,000 additional BEVs.

Assuming the average battery size per vehicle is 70 kWh the remaining gigafactory capacity for batteries would therefore be 28,000,000 kWh, or 28 GWh(1).

The Powerwall will probably not be a large user of batteries, so total excess capacity is arbitrarily reduced to 27 GWh, which generously assumes 150,000 Powerwall units sold in 2020.

The excess capacity is available for usage in the Powerblock whose market is commercial and utility storage.

The Powerblock provides storage for the following commercial and utility applications.

  1. When time of day pricing is in place, which it is in California, commercial customers have an incentive to buy electricity from the grid during off-peak hours and store it for use later in the day, and avoid using expensive electricity during peak hours. For example, they may be able to buy electricity for 10 cents per kWh, and avoid having to pay 35 cents per kWh during peak periods.
  2. Utilities would use storage in combination with solar and wind to store electricity during the day for use in the evening to level out the load and help mitigate rapid ramping of fossil fuel power plants. See, The Duck Speaks.

California is the driving force behind storage requirements, so its market is the first to be served.

California has mandated that 1,350 MW of storage be provided, 50% by utilities and 50% by commercial or other applications, by 2020. This would seem to indicate the gigafactory will be late to the game, but the 2020 mandate is merely the tip of the iceberg if renewable mandates of 33% and 50% are to be met.

The storage mandate specifies MW, not MWh, so it’s not entirely clear how to compare gigafactory capacity in GWh with the MW mandate. Furthermore, it’s been impossible to ascertain with any degree of certainty the amount of storage required in California in MWh.

Tehachapi Storage Project Using 604,832 Li-ion cells. Photo by Southern California Edison.

Tehachapi Storage Project Using 604,832 Li-ion cells. Photo by Southern California Edison.

Two actual examples may provide some guidance as to whether the capacity of the gigafactory can be fully utilized every year.

The first example is Cargill that used one MW of storage to save $100,000 annually. Assuming $25,000 per unit for the Powerblock, total Cargill investment is estimated to have been $350,000. The payback of 3+ years is good.

The second example is the Tehachapi storage project by Southern California Edison (SCE) to accommodate wind energy. This installation was rated at 32,000 kWh. Based on available excess gigafactory capacity, Powerblock batteries could be provided for approximately 900 similar installations. The batteries for the Tehachapi project were supplied by LG Chem, a competitor of Tesla’s.

Another problem with making any assumptions about whether the Tesla gigafactory will be fully utilized is that there is competition from other battery suppliers.

The other batteries may be lower in cost or be able to provide storage without degrading the batteries. The Tesla Powerblock, for example, is rated at 5,000 cycles, which would indicate, under normal usage, the battery would have to be replaced after 15 years.

Meanwhile, flow batteries could last indefinitely.

The EosAurora battery cost is forecast to be $160/kWh compared with the Powerblock’s $250/kWh.

If sales of Tesla BEVs is greater than 100,000 units in 2020, it will, of course, reduce the factory’s dependence on storage applications.

The most that can be said at the moment is that Tesla’s success depends on four variables.

  • BEV sales
  • Battery sales to other automobile manufacturers
  • Powerwall sales
  • Powerblock sales

Given current trends in BEV sales and the likelihood of limited Powerwall sales, the future success of the gigafactory would seem to depend on Powerblock sales.

Arriving at a forecast for Powerblock sales will depend on determining the amount of total storage required in MWh for California and the other states using large quantities of renewables.

 

Article Note:
1: The specifications for the gigafactory call for 35 GWh of cell capacity, but at the same time 50 GWh of pack capacity. It’s not clear why these seemingly contradictory specifications are given, so the article proceeds on the basis of 35 GWh capacity.

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The Race is On

May 19, 2015

The Tesla has received all the publicity, but there is another zero emissions vehicle available, the Toyota FuelCell Vehicle (FCV), the Mirai.

The Mirai has an MRSP of $57,500, which is less than the Tesla’s 70D. (Tesla advertises a price of $57,500 AFTER all government credits and gas savings.)

The MSRP of the Toyota Mirai is unlikely to cover the cost of manufacturing the vehicle, meaning that the Mirai is a loss leader. As a loss leader, it can help Toyota meet California’s requirement for zero emission vehicles, while creating publicity for the brand.

Some comparisons:

Mirai

Tesla 70D

Range

300 miles

240 miles

Fueling time

5 minutes

30 minutes

Fueling locations

Very Few

425 Supercharger

 

Tesla advertises a network of supercharging stations across the country, while there are only 12 public hydrogen fueling stations in the United States.

Map of Tesla Super Charging Stations. From Tesla Web Site

Map of Tesla Super Charging Stations. From Tesla Web Site

Most hydrogen fueling stations are in California, which is logical since zero emission vehicles are supported by California with a mandate for their adoption.

The cost of producing hydrogen and a lack of fueling stations are the Achilles heel of FCVs.

There are approximately 160,000 gasoline stations in the united States.

Assuming that only one-third as many hydrogen fueling stations would be required to cover the country so that FCVs weren’t range restricted, approximately 50,000 hydrogen fueling stations would need to be built across the United States.

At $500,000 per fueling station, it would cost approximately $27 billion.

Just matching Tesla’s 425 supercharger stations would cost over $200 million.

Tesla Charging Stations. Photo by D. Dears

Tesla Charging Stations. Photo by D. Dears

Tesla’s supercharging stations are also less costly to build and can be located in buildings and parking garages, something hydrogen fueling stations wouldn’t be allowed to do.

In addition, hydrogen is expensive to produce. It’s also difficult to transport if it’s produced centrally, such as at refineries where most hydrogen is produced today.

Alternatively, electrolysis can separate hydrogen from water.

Since hydrogen produced at a central location can’t be transported in natural gas pipelines, as it corrodes the pipe, it must be transported by cryogenic truck to the fueling station.

When hydrogen is produced centrally for use in an FCV refueling station, it must be cooled to form a liquid. Refrigerating hydrogen uses approximately 25% of hydrogen’s energy content, which is one of the energy losses incurred with this scenario.

Hydrogen can be produced locally at a refueling station by using reforming or by using electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Electrolysis, however, is expensive.

On balance, it would appear as though the battery electric vehicle (BEV) has the advantage over FCVs when it comes to refueling or recharging the vehicle.

Another disadvantage of the FCV is the cost and space utilized by the fuel tanks needed to store hydrogen.

Hydrogen Fuel Tanks As Shown On Mirai web site

Hydrogen Fuel Tanks As Shown On Mirai web site

These carbon fiber fuel tanks are obviously far more expensive than traditional gasoline fuel tanks.

The fuel cell stack costs far more than a traditional internal combustion engine, and probably two to three times the cost of the battery pack used by Tesla, though Toyota has not revealed the cost of the Mirai’s fuel cell.

On a side by side comparison, the Tesla BEV is probably less costly to manufacture.

While the BEV seems to have a clear advantages over the FCV, both are more costly and have less range than traditional gasoline powered vehicles.

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