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Shell’s New Battery Won’t Solve Wind Intermittency Problem

February 22, 2020

By Paul Homewood


h/t Dennis Ambler



Oil and gas giant Shell has plans for a 100-megawatt grid storage battery in the west of England. It is slated to be the biggest battery in Europe once it is completed later this year and will be crucial to the UK’s quest to remain the continent’s top wind power player.

The battery project in the county of Wiltshire aims to store renewable power in two 50MW cells and then sell it to consumers when demand and prices are high.

“Projects like this will be vital for balancing the UK’s electricity demand and supply as wind and solar power play bigger roles in powering our lives,” said Shell Energy Europe vice president David Wells.

“Batteries are uniquely suited to optimising power supplies as the UK moves towards a net-zero carbon system,” he added. It is the Dutch firm’s latest attempt to diversify its business holdings away from fossil fuels towards more sustainable energy.

Chinese investment fund CNIC and state-run utility Huaneng Group will build the battery but Shell insists neither will be involved with its day-to-day operations once construction is completed.

The battery will hold enough juice to power 10,000 homes for a single day once fully charged, given that UK energy regulator Ofgem says that a typical household needs about 10 kilowatts every 24-hour period. 


Despite the claim that it will be will be crucial to the UK’s quest to remain the continent’s top wind power player, it will in fact be nothing of the sort.

According to Shell’s blurb, the battery will store 100 MWh. UK wind output is running on average at 60 TWh a year, which equates to 6854 MWh per hour. In other words, Shell’s new shiny battery will only be able to replace wind output for less than a minute, if the wind stopped blowing.

The business logic is, of course, no different to that of small scale peakers, such as diesel engines and OCGTs, which come on stream to cover small fluctuations in supply and demand, thus earning premium tariffs.

The difference, however, is that they can run for much longer than an hour when needed.

Shell’s new battery may be a cheaper option than other peakers, but it certainly does make a jot of difference to the energy outlook, nor the problems created by the intermittency of wind power.

  1. February 22, 2020 6:50 pm

    Heaven help us when these numbskulls don’t even understand the difference between power and energy.

  2. February 22, 2020 7:00 pm

    The price only goes high because of the renewables’ intermittency. So they will get paid for helping solve the problem they created. Nice work if you can get it.

  3. Pancho Plail permalink
    February 22, 2020 7:02 pm

    I look forward to a new National Lottery where entrants’ addresses are drawn out of a hat to see which 10,000 homes get their power during the first still day.
    Seriously though, all that energy in one place does slightly worry me. Still, like nuclear power stations, I am sure nothing will ever go wrong.

    • February 23, 2020 8:21 am

      10 kW per day is not the position in winter, especially once they have phased out gas central heating. And how much power does each house need to charge their EVs once the IC car has been phased out?
      The battery sound big, but it is next to nothing in practice. Just expensive, and not needed if only we weree to stick with conventional powered electricity generation.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        February 23, 2020 12:32 pm

        Cost is already an issue in delivering the promised battery car charging infrastructure. Just one car park in the City of London is costing £0.5m for a fast charger. Funds are not there even for the slow chargers where the problem is that they will be occupied for longer. The black cab trade is kicking off as they have been forced to buy only hybrids since 2018 so want the charging points.

  4. February 22, 2020 7:23 pm

    Awkward typo

    but it certainly does make a jot of difference to the energy outlook, nor the

  5. GeoffB permalink
    February 22, 2020 7:31 pm

    No mention of cost in the article,,,there is one comment in the original which is very sensible….the only use is to smooth the output of the wind farm. Its use as a peaker is limited and its only needed because of the intermittency of wind.

  6. Harry Passfield permalink
    February 22, 2020 7:33 pm

    “but it certainly does make a jot of difference…” – Doesn’t?

  7. Harry Passfield permalink
    February 22, 2020 7:34 pm

    Sorry, Geoff. Missed your comment…

  8. Harry Passfield permalink
    February 22, 2020 7:36 pm

    Controlled state: where utility us power; State control: where power is a utility

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      February 22, 2020 7:46 pm

      Back-asswards! Memo to self. Don’t post after a goid meal.

      Controlled (democratic) state: where power is a utility; State control: where a utility is power.

  9. February 22, 2020 7:38 pm

    Fortunately CPRE Wiltshire has a document entitled “Guidance for assessing planning applications for small-scale battery storage and backup generation facilities” which provides all the information necessary to debunk the claims made when applications for such useless storage facilities are made. The main problem is convincing ignorant local authority planning officers, planning committees and planning inspectors of the utter uselessness of these types of facilities – none of these people understand anything about the electricity system or the technology and are easily duped into thinking they are “green and renewable”and thus are supported by government planning policy.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      February 23, 2020 11:07 am

      I think the best analogy is trying to run your home using the battery in your mobile phone or iPad

  10. MrGrimNasty permalink
    February 22, 2020 7:52 pm

    “10 kilowatt[hours]s every 24-hour period” They say – which seems to come from average of class 1 + 2 mediums.

    And 33kwh of gas + any coal/wood, all of which are to be discouraged/eliminated.

    So actual household energy electricity usage will soon be 43+kwh in a 24-hour period.

    (Assuming I haven’t messed up the maths, and ignoring EVs.)

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      February 23, 2020 3:31 pm

      If we allow for the fact that they should have said 10kWh per 24 hours instead of kilowatts, I think 3.65MWh per year is a new low for that mythical unit of energy the “home”. I suppose they will stop using it when the “home” starts including heating and EV use as standard. Windmill productivity is set to fall dramatically.

  11. Gamecock permalink
    February 22, 2020 7:59 pm

    Like all batteries, it costs money and generates nothing.

    ‘enough juice to power 10,000 homes for a single day’

    What is that in Hiroshima bombs?

    Know anyone who uses electricity for a single day?

    ‘once fully charged’

    I wonder why they felt they needed to mention that. Is there a problem with that? Like from where are they going to get the electricity with which to charge them?

    ‘The UK’s mega battery will absorb wind power when it is surplus to requirements.’

    Do surpluses actually happen? So much so that significant amounts can be saved? Is this going to be Lake Mead, and take 6 years to fill up?

    ‘will be crucial to the UK’s quest to remain the continent’s top wind power player’

    Which is worth what ?!?! Bragging rights at Davos?

    Every list of continental European countries I can find excludes UK. With Brexit, it is an even more specious assertion.

    ‘Chinese investment fund CNIC and state-run utility Huaneng Group will build the battery but Shell insists neither will be involved with its day-to-day operations once construction is completed.’

    All bugs will be removed. The ChiComs guarantee it.

    ‘nor the problems created by the intermittency of wind power’

    Precisely. Batteries can provide ride thru capability for short outages.

    ‘Grid storage batteries are set to gain in popularity as countries increase the capacity of variable energy sources’

    If they have increased capacity, why would they need storage? Because they are going to reduce capacity. Getting rid of capacity to put in wind and solar.

    Sam Morgan is a stenographer for Shell. He takes their press release, and prints it WITHOUT CRITICAL REVIEW. Qualifying him as a “journalist.”

    • February 22, 2020 8:41 pm

      “‘enough juice to power 10,000 homes for a single day’”
      “What is that in Hiroshima bombs?”

      More importantly …
      How many litres of juice is that & is it part of my 5 per day ?
      How many Olympic swimming pools would it fill (are the cartons recyclable ) ?

      Is it the size of Wales or whales ?

      Statistics like that, are crucial to our understanding of the Unprecedented Energy Crises / Emergency / Collapse.

      See, I’m not a complete idiot… 97% is still missing (:-))

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        February 22, 2020 9:03 pm

        It’s probably equivalent to 2,000 London double-decker buses. Surely that is the metric-du-jour? Are you any the wiser?

      • February 22, 2020 11:27 pm

        Thanks Harry, much clearer… but are they the ‘Routemaster’ or the “big six wheeler 97HP omnibus’ of Flanders & Swan fame.

        Daimler / AEC 1927 LS double deck bus

  12. William H Hawkins permalink
    February 22, 2020 8:17 pm

    Cryobatteries are a far better solution. They use existing technology, are safe- from the point of view of flammability and do not require expensive lithium or rare deaths and and be built wherever needed.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      February 25, 2020 1:27 am

      But they are also short duration devices. Practical designs are about 5 hours storage. In part that is because the best way to make money form a battery is to charge and discharge it frequently, and aim to make a profit each time. Round trip efficiency is not really very good either: they depend on “free” coolth (e.g. from LNG regasification) and heat (e.g. power station discharge) to get around that.

  13. February 22, 2020 8:25 pm

    Why on earth are science journalists and science communicators almost always completely ignorant about science? They can’t even get the units right.

    Re: “UK energy regulator Ofgem says that a typical household needs about 10 kilowatts every 24-hour period.”

    It’s actually in the neighborhood of 50 kilowatt-hours per household per day.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      February 22, 2020 9:06 pm

      My average electricity bill is around 33 kWh/month. (Three-bedroomed detached).

      • February 22, 2020 10:33 pm

        Please double-check that, Harry. I use that much electricity in about 16 hours.

        I use an average of about 1500 kWh / month, for my three-bedroom home (with electric heat-pump heating).

      • February 23, 2020 10:25 am

        We’re on around 5000 KWh a year, Dave

        Don’t forget most UK houses rely on gas for heating. I think our gas consumption runs at about 15000 KWh a year

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        February 23, 2020 1:03 pm

        Dave. You’re right. Typo. Missed off the zero! Duh. 330 a month

      • Gerry, England permalink
        February 23, 2020 1:29 pm

        I have a 3 bed chalet bungalow and use 14000kWh of gas and 3430kWh of electricity per year at the moment.

        The gas has to be calculated and it varies if you have a metric or imperial meter. I have noticed that the calorific value can also vary as mine is now 38.8 but was 39.1.

  14. MrGrimNasty permalink
    February 22, 2020 8:55 pm

    So it’s green-washing for Shell, yet more cost is imposed on UK consumers, and yet more of our money is funneled to China.

    “Shell will buy and trade electricity from what’s claimed to be Europe’s biggest battery storage project currently being built by Chinese players in the UK……a collaboration between China Huaneng Group and Chinese sovereign wealth fund CNIC.”

  15. Broadlands permalink
    February 22, 2020 9:32 pm

    New batteries like this are the same as solar panel farms… useless for transportation where carbon fuels will still be needed long into the future. And if a rapid reduction in fossil fuels is necessary to reach the absurd goal of net-zero CO2 by 2050 there won’t be any need for much of anything. Really stupid policy decisions.

  16. mikewaite permalink
    February 22, 2020 9:37 pm

    Judging from Street View the villages of Minety and Upper Minety seem quite small as a site for what is presumably a large industrial establishment and the lanes around are narrow and hardly suited for large lorry traffic during construction.
    How is the power to charge and discharge the battery to be transferred ? Large pylons across what seems to be a pleasant rural andscape, or will there be a large wind and/ or solar farm or farms set up adjacent to the battery?
    Would not Swindon , about 10 miles away be a better location? I think that Honda threatened to vacate their site if Brexit ever happened . That should be big enough.

  17. Dave Ward permalink
    February 22, 2020 9:53 pm

    “The UK’s quest to remain the continent’s top wind power player”

    I’m getting utterly sick of hearing such claims, because neither I, or anybody else, has been asked if we approve of schemes such as this. What is REALLY meant is that it is THE GOVERNMENT’s quest, and it is totally wrong for them to make claims on our behalf, particularly when the science and economics behind it are bogus. WE will end up paying for their mistakes, while they will be happily retired, and enjoying taxpayer funded pensions, without a care in the world…

  18. Athelstan. permalink
    February 23, 2020 12:15 am

    It just gets dafter and in a zero use game, and the stakes and winnings, usually loses all forked out for, by the taxpayers.

    NGOs propose, politicians preen and virtue signalling ‘me, me, me!’ in grand style, big oil doing the green appeasement dance BS, birdmincerconstructors and manufacturers alike, all companies laugh and laugh, the investment banksters skimmers full to busting but that won’t stop them (mr creosote esque). Most everybody makes a killing.

    Moreover ‘killing’ so do the customers remember, cold kills.

  19. OldCynic permalink
    February 23, 2020 12:49 am

    Let’s look at the 129MWh / 100MW Tesla battery installed in South Australia a few years ago.

    The SA battery was purchased by Neoen, owners of the Horsdale Power Reserve wind farm, and funded in part by the South Australian government.

    Neoen owns and maintains the battery and can use most of the capacity for its own purposes. The South Australian government can direct up 70% of output be used to prevent load-shedding. The Australian Energy Market Operaor (AEMO) pays Neoen AU$4.2 million per year for this service. (

    In 2018 Neoen made an additional AU$24 million profits on the battery by:
    o arbitrage – charging it up when prices were low and selling the power during the day when prices were high,
    o carrying out Frequency Control Ancillary Services (FCAS) for AEMO.

    The source of the FCAS revenue is not as clear as it might be, but suggests that much of this has come from owners of gas-fired generators which had been themselves gaming the system.

    Regardless, last year Neoen made AU$28 million over 12 months from a low-risk (State government-backed) investment of less than AU$90 million, suggesting that there are large profits being made, ultimately paid for by industrial/domestic consumers.

    I’m not criticising Neoen. The system is what it is – there is money to be made from gaming/exploiting/working within it.

    Knowing how the “big battery” is used in South Australia, have another look at the Shell battery. Plainly, it is worthless as a store of electrical power for those times when the wind doen’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. However, as an FCAS device (ie keeping the 50Hz at 50Hz, not 49Hz or 51Hz) it is admirably suited. And if the UK grid is anything like the Australian grid, FCAS services can be VERY profitable. I reckon this is why Shell is installing it.

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      February 23, 2020 4:01 am

      What is your source for the cost of the South Australian ‘big’ battery?
      Here in SA it has been impossible to get a figure, although estimates run from $90 to 150 million.
      Even at the latter cost that is an annual return of 18.7%. At the lower end just over 31% p.a.
      Bearing in mind that reneweconomy has little grasp of business, that profit may actually be gross before allowing for the battery replacement costs in 10? years. [ IF that is intended].

      And taking your figure as correct we can estimate the cost of battery cover for the houses only in the UK as AUS$90 million X 250 for each day of coverage**. Didn’t I see a comment recently about 7 days of minimal output from wind turbines recently?

      **£82,000,000,000,000,000 for 7 days or as the Americans would say £3.3 million per house. I have a feeling that might not be a vote winner.

    • Frosty Oz permalink
      February 23, 2020 10:51 pm

      RenewEconomy recently reported that Neoen is this quarter (Q1 2020) expanding the Hornsdale battery capacity by 50% (to 193.5MWh) at a cost of A$70M. The initial stage build may have been cheaper due to then more favourable exchange rates, but if the reports as to the upgrade cost are accurate then this suggests a current cost of about A$1.08M per MWh [GBP 550k per MWh].

      • Frosty Oz permalink
        February 23, 2020 10:57 pm

        Readers may also be interested that over Cal 2018 the Hornsdale battery reportedly consumed 150MWh for every 100MWh discharged. It required 50% more energy than it provided.

  20. Nicholas Lewis permalink
    February 23, 2020 9:07 am

    Shell are after kudos to show they aren’t destroying the planet with there other products but as Old Cynic rightly points out this can be used for arbitrage pricing as there are times during the day when you can sell high and buy back low. Im guessing its also part of the capacity market or DMSR so they can get some fixed fee as well
    In reality you could build easily 500 of these round the country but the arbitrage play would be lost so the economics wont stack up unless they just overbuild wind turbines and solar of course.

    • Gamecock permalink
      February 23, 2020 3:00 pm

      If you and others are correct, then . . .

      ‘“Projects like this will be vital for balancing the UK’s electricity demand and supply as wind and solar power play bigger roles in powering our lives,” said Shell Energy Europe vice president David Wells.’

      . . . is monetizing the intermittency THEY are creating!

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      February 24, 2020 12:35 am

      They already have overbuilt, with the result that we are seeing more and more constraint payments, and periods of near zero and negative prices, and perhaps most importantly for battery economics, price volatility on the scale of a few hours. Take a look here for 23rd Feb:

      They could have filled up at zero for settlement period 27 and £1.40/MWh for period 28 (each period is half an hour), and sold back out again when the wind dropped at £51.15/MWh in periods 3 and 37. Even allowing for round trip losses of 20%, when you can fill up for free and make £5,000 over a few hours it adds up over a year. Income from offering fast frequency response could add a further £6m to revenues, based on tenders of £7/MW of capacity per hour of availability by other batteries.

  21. Max Stavros permalink
    February 23, 2020 9:15 am

    I like the 10,000 homes bit.
    Back in the real world, UK average demand is around 30 GWh, so this marvellous Shell battery will be able to power the UK for just 12 seconds.

  22. Frank Everest permalink
    February 23, 2020 10:21 am

    How about this:
    Suppose we build a wind farm, and hook it up to a huge battery. How big must the turbines and battery be, so the combination has the same delivery capability as a 1GW nuclear station?
    If the wind farm has a 50% load factor (i.e. the wind doesn’t blow for 50% of the period of interest) then it’ll need to be rated at 3GW so it can supply 1GW to the grid and 2GW to recharge the batteries in half the time on windy days. Likewise, if the load factor is only 33%, then the wind farm will need to be rated at 4GW so it can recharge the battery in 1/3 of the time on windy days. On still days, the batteries will need to supply 1GW continuously (it’s a nuclear power station substitute, remember?). If the wind doesn’t blow for a day (24hours), then the battery will need to hold at least 24GWh. A week, and it’s 168GWh.
    If it’s a day’s worth of storage then, on day two, the battery’s empty and the lights will go out. If the battery is full and the wind blows, then surplus power will have to be dumped, so the battery’s capacity is useless. Likewise for a week’s storage when the time’s up.

    The size of the battery for realistic nuclear power replacement is, by any stretch of the calculation, HUGE. And the cost? If the battery could be as cheap as £100/kWh, then the cost of a one-day battery would be £2.4bn, and a week £168bn. That makes nuclear look cheap, and nuclear doesn’t stop working after a few windless days!

    • Nicholas Lewis permalink
      February 23, 2020 11:26 am

      Dont forget to factor in the constraints payments on the days when its windy and the the batteries are already charged!!

      Anyhow its blindingly obvious to anybody that we need a new nuke station on the site of all the decommissioned Magnox reactor that is the ONLY way to get electricity carbon free. And to think we were the country that had a decent nuclear policy until 25 years ago. Yes 3 Mile/Chernoby/Fukishima are warnings but at everyone of them the cause is well understood so can be designed out but nothing is foolproof and the risk here is civil anarchy will kill far far more people then a small risk with nuclear. If they can waste 100B on HS2 they can find the money for nuclear we dont need the Chinese.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      February 24, 2020 1:12 am

      Up to the 22nd February (528 hours), there has been 521,052 MWh of wind farm constraint. That would take nearly 5,000 of these batteries to store (I am assuming that round trip losses are split between storing and discharging). At least they would be able to cope with peaks of wind generation. The alternative is 57 Dinorwigs. I’ve no idea where you would put them.

      Yet we are only getting started on the amount of curtailment we will see as wind generation is increased still further

  23. st3ve permalink
    February 23, 2020 10:27 am

    High density &/or high powered charge points should be situated adjacent to power sources eg wind/solar farms & battery banks. This will enable simpler & more permissible connections to the already stressed grid network, by keeping transmission distances to a minimum and allowing more rapid chargers to be built adjacent to one another.
    Are petrol companies like Shell & Total designing their charge points to be situated thus?

  24. February 23, 2020 10:27 am

    The latest Private Eye Agri Brigade informs me that apparently there is a growing scientific consensus that meat consumption must be cut drastically to tackle climate change.
    I guess they meant a growing climate change scientific consensus rather like the consensus between bears that the woods are useful for relief.
    Also a letter writer corrects Old Sparky when it pointed out dirty backup generates are needed for solar by pointing out that they have a Tesla Powerwall 2 battery that charges with off peak electricity. At a cost of only $6700 plus £1100 for Powerwall backup and installation of only $1000-$3000 This seems much more economical than a second hand electric generator that can cost over a £100

  25. Ben Vorlich permalink
    February 23, 2020 11:04 am

    About a month, possibly 6 weeks ago, I complained to the BBC that one of their reporters described a Battery similar to this as a generator. I said a science reporter, or someone reporting on technical developments should know the difference. The company supplying the battery described it as a generator which should have been questioned but wasn’t.

    I’m still waiting for a reply.

  26. Vernon E permalink
    February 23, 2020 12:15 pm

    You are all missing the point. It doesn’t matter tuppence to Shell (or BP) whether what they are announcing is nonsense – they know it is, they certainly don’t need us to tell them. All they are after is headlines – virtue signalling – so that we keep on buying their petrol. They aren’t, unlike the public, stupid.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      February 23, 2020 1:35 pm

      The jury is still out on the Looney in charge at BP who has promised two opposing things – expanding into unreliable generation and paying a good dividend. It is going to cost money to buy up generating capacity which can only come either from selling off oil and gas assets or cutting back on dividends. Reducing dividend payments is always bad news for the share price so one to watch. At the moment both Shell and BP offer a very good yield.

  27. johnbillscott permalink
    February 23, 2020 1:05 pm

    I do not see how many times the battery can be cycled. All rechargeable batteries have limits and do eventually not store as well as they used to and have to be replaced. Shell was and maybe still is cautious and officials I worked with used to say they strove to be second on new developments letting No1 take the higher risks. I looks like in this case Shell is greenwashing and atoning for their green sins. What our silly politicians are not noticing is outside their bubble the real world of people are not all fools and will take action as happened in France with the Gillet Jaunes. The latest diktats from our new government on energy will cause an uprising as there are no rational or practical alternatives all they see is uncertainty and huge cost increases. No Boris the UK does not need to lead the world – your current squeeze may be an airhead greenie but your publics are not that green in terms of ignorance to know a scam when they see it.

    • Gamecock permalink
      February 23, 2020 3:45 pm

      Additionally, some batteries (I don’t know about these) can be damaged by partial charging and discharging. Your concern about cycles is correct, but add to it the possibility of problems from incomplete cycles.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      February 24, 2020 12:59 am

      I think Shell is in this to make money. Granted, a 100MW/MWh battery isn’t going to make a fortune when you measure profits in billions at the corporate level. But it’s all part of expanding into power generation and electricity trading. Shell had a failed attempt at nuclear many years ago, and were originally lined up as lead investor in the London Array wind farm before they got cold feet over its likely profitability, so electricity has been considered before. Perhaps the biggest value comes from learning about optimisation in the increasingly volatile electricity markets.

  28. February 23, 2020 1:52 pm

    We have already hit the darkness when it comes to science and math. At this point, the Dark Ages appear to have had a brighter group of humans than the current crop. Humans advance technologically, but because they remain ignorant and easily terrified of their own shadows, that technology is easily taken from them. We may improve lighting and heating, but we cannot improve the human state. Most humans are flat-out untrainable when it comes to logic and thnking, and pay the price for it with very brief periods of enlightenment followed by centuries in the dark. The darkness is obviously coming as so many believe these fairy tales. More importantly, so many don’t rise up and stop the proliferation of the fairy tales and theft of taxpayer money, instead allowing the greedy to take everything.

  29. February 23, 2020 8:37 pm

    “These systems require between 1% and 10% of the materials used to construct a turbine and can also be grounded if required, for example to ease the passage of migrating birds.”

  30. JCalvertN permalink
    February 23, 2020 11:10 pm

    What they need is big banks of flywheels

  31. Ian Cook permalink
    February 24, 2020 10:49 am

    Brings to mind a cartoon I saw when digital watches were new. A chap is explaining all the amazing attributes of his new digital watch and is asked if there are any drawbacks. The final frame showed him pointing out the two suitcases with him and saying “yes, the batteries”.

    You could point out that we have cured that problem with technology. Indeed, but it is still a warning about introducing a technology too early, before it is mature enough to be unusable. This is true of wind farms, solar and, Lord help us, electric cars. Sinclair C5 anyone?

  32. Michael Perry permalink
    February 26, 2020 11:34 am

    I live in Wiltshire and follow planning applications to Wiltshire Council, the planning authority, very closely. There has been no application for planning consent for any such development. Therefore any hopes of even starting work this year is unrealistic. Further, as there has not been any such planning consideration reported, as required by law, then we have no idea where in the county they are thinking of dumping this monster on us.

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