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Long-term development work leads us to success, our contribution to climate protection. E-fuels – what are they and how can we use them?

01

Electricity-based fuels - also known as e-fuels - are liquid, synthetic fuels. They are produced using green electricity from hydrogen and carbon dioxide. E-fuels are climate neutral, as they only release the same amount of CO2 that is taken from the atmosphere or from industrial source during their production.

 

02

E-fuels have the same chemical characteristics as standard (fossil) liquid fuels. For this reason, they are easy to transport and store. They also have a high energy density. These properties enable the economical import of renewable energy from areas of the world with ample sun and wind to Germany in the form of e-fuels or intermediate products. The import, storage and supply infrastructure required for this is already in place.

 

03

In 2015, 195 states committed themselves within the scope of the Paris Climate Accords to limit man-made global warming to under 2 C (compared to the pre-industrial age). To achieve this, both Germany and the EU aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 % of the 1990 level by 2030. At the same time, this also enhances quality of life through improved air quality.

In-depth scientific calculations show that these climate goals can be achieved under specific conditions. This requires modern and innovative technologies that are environmentally friendly and that largely build upon already existing renewable energies. The transport sector plays a key role in this, as it accounts for 26 % of CO2 emissions across Europe and around 20 % in Germany. In addition to electromobility, which is already heavily promoted by the state, further efforts are required to make individual mobility in particular, fit for the future and also enable the approximately 1.3 billion cars worldwide to continue to be used in an environmentally sustainable manner.

This is where the production of e-fuels comes in, the introduction of which requires no changes to existing infrastructure. For consumers, this means that existing vehicles with internal combustion engines or hybrid vehicles can continue to be used, with fuel continuing to be obtained from filling stations. Implementation of the technologies on an industrial scale can begin at once.

04

  • E-fuels / synthetic fuels are climate neutral.
  • E-fuels have the same characteristics as conventional fossil fuels.
  • In the long term, vehicles with internal combustion engines will continue to be on the road in Germany and worldwide, regardless of the promotion of electromobility.
    --> E-fuels are the short-term solution for sustainable mobility!
  • As a high-tech location, Germany can drive the further development of the internal combustion engine to achieve enduring increases in efficiency.
  • Securing of jobs at car manufacturers and in the automotive sector.
  • E-fuels can replace fossil fuel in several areas. This means that not only cars, but also trucks, aircraft, passenger and freight trains as well as ships can be powered by synthetic fuels.
  • E-fuels are ideally suited to storing renewable energies (wind, solar).
  • E-fuels are liquid energy carriers/storage media with a high energy density, making them easy to transport. This enables e-fuels to be produced at locations with favourable conditions for renewable energies (wind, solar), making it possible to transport them to Germany via existing transport routes and methods. In brief: e-fuels are ideal for importing renewable energy!

05

The technology required is already in place and can be implemented in industrial production plants straight away, enabling e-fuels to be manufactured in large quantities. The time from the beginning of planning work to the start of production of a chemical plant is typically three years, meaning that e-fuels can be produced in significant quantities from the middle of this decade.

 

06

Future areas of use for e-fuels are all areas in which a climate neutral internal combustion engine is desirable. First and foremost is the  existing global passenger vehicle fleet of 1.3 billion cars. In addition to road traffic, the maritime and aviation sector will also be dependent on e-fuels, as so far, no (practicable and reliable) technical propulsion alternative exists for these forms of transport.

 

07

Provided that political acceptance and the corresponding will exist, it will initially make sense to blend e-fuels with standard fuels. In this case a few cents extra per litre will not make a significant difference. With the increasing number and capacity of production plants and the corresponding rise in the volume of e-fuelavailability, manufacturing costs benefit from economies of scale resulting from mass production, making e-fuels morefavourable. Subject to suitable production locations - dependent on a reasonably priced supply of renewable energy - current calculations for e-gasoline, for example, indicate possible manufacturing costs of below one euro per litre.

 

08

In 2008, a customer query laid the foundations for the development of gasoline synthesis technology. The aim was to convert the associated gas that emerges during the extraction of oil into a valuable liquid product capable of being transported over large distances. This enables remote sources of raw materials to be better connected to the areas in which they are required.

The idea received its technical implementation in a large demonstration plant of the Department of Energy Process Engineering and Chemical Engineering (IEC) at TU Bergakademie Freiberg. Construction of the plant began in March 2009, with commissioning in June 2010. In three years of research operation the process could be demonstrated successfully on a large scale, with over 100,000 litres of high-quality gasoline produced.

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