|Abstract: ||There is a longstanding debate about the future availability of energy resources, and a significant literature has developed around the issues of oil availability in particular. More recently, the availability of lesser-known critical metals, such as lithium and indium, has been called into question. These metals are key components in low-carbon energy technologies and a new evidence base that questions their future availability is emerging. Much of this research applies methods and techniques also applied to the analysis of oil resources, with the implicit assumption that these resources are in some way analogous. However, although there are similarities, there are also structural differences and the appropriateness of the assumed analogy has not been sufficiently tested. This thesis explores the similarities and differences in the structure of the oil, lithium and indium resource systems, examining the likely response of these systems to availability constraints and testing the appropriateness of this assumed analogy.
The systems that define the market for resources are dynamically complex and involve a number of different interlinked variables. The way in which these resource systems respond to changes in surrounding conditions arises from the structure of these variables and their linkages. However, much of the existing analysis of critical metals relies on simplistic assumptions regarding the structure and function of these systems. To address this knowledge gap, this thesis first presents case studies of the three resource systems. The case studies are then used to develop three system dynamics models.
This thesis finds that, while there are many similarities in the structure of the three resource systems modelled, the differences between them have a significant impact on their dynamic system behaviour. Analysis which overlooks these differences is likely to draw inaccurate conclusions. In particular, the resilience of metals to periods of constrained availability is potentially greater than that of oil if metal recycling is taken into account. However, metals recovered as by-products are potentially limited in their ability to resist constrained availability.|