The automotive industry is undergoing a massive transformation, and Stellantis and Aramco Hydrogen-Based E-Fuels are at the forefront of this change. The collaboration between auto giant Stellantis and Saudi state oil company Aramco has proven that hydrogen-based e-fuels like e-diesel and e-gasoline are compatible with a wide range of engine types. This groundbreaking development could pave the way for a more sustainable future in road transportation.
The Advanced Testing Process
Stellantis and Aramco conducted rigorous tests to confirm that e-diesel and e-gasoline are compatible with 24 engine types used across 28 million existing vehicles in Europe. These e-fuels can serve as a “drop-in” fuel, meaning they can be used in existing engines without any modifications. Despite some differences in chemical properties compared to their fossil equivalents, the e-fuels met all the engine specifications, including density and inflammation points.
The Environmental Impact
While the use of e-fuels can significantly reduce CO2 emissions, they have been criticized by environmental groups for being inefficient in terms of renewable electricity use. For every 100kWh of renewable electricity used to produce e-fuels, only 13kWh is supplied on the road. This is in stark contrast to battery-electric vehicles, which can deliver up to 77kWh of energy on the road for every 100kWh of renewable electricity.
The European Perspective
The European Union has relaxed its proposed 2035 ban on the sales of internal combustion engine vehicles, allowing them to continue being sold as long as they run on synthetic fuels. This is a huge win for companies like Stellantis and Aramco, who are investing in e-fuels as a viable alternative to electric vehicles.
The Future of E-Fuels in Stellantis’ Fleet
Stellantis aims to sell 100% battery-electric vehicles in Europe by 2030. However, the company acknowledges that internal combustion engines will still be in use up to 2050, necessitating the need for carbon-neutral fuels like e-diesel and e-gasoline.
What are the different types of e-fuels?
E-fuels can be categorized into e-diesel, e-gasoline, e-methane, and e-methanol, among others.
What is e-fuel made of?
E-fuels are made by reacting captured carbon dioxide with renewable hydrogen.
What are synthetic e-fuels?
Synthetic e-fuels are artificially created fuels that can be used as a substitute for traditional fossil fuels.
The collaboration between Stellantis and Aramco in the field of hydrogen-based e-fuels is a significant step towards reducing emissions and making road transport more sustainable. While there are challenges to overcome, such as the efficiency of renewable electricity use, the potential benefits are massive. As technology advances, e-fuels could become a key component in the global effort to combat climate change.
Carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) encompasses a range of applications where CO2 is captured and then used either directly (without chemical alteration) or indirectly (where it’s transformed) in various products. Currently, CO2 is primarily used in the fertiliser industry and for enhanced oil recovery. However, emerging applications such as CO2-based synthetic fuels, chemicals, and building aggregates are gaining momentum.
Role in Clean Energy Transitions
It’s essential to note that CO2 utilisation doesn’t always lead to reduced emissions. The climate benefits associated with a particular CO2 utilisation depend on the CO2’s origin, the product it replaces, the carbon intensity of the energy used in the conversion, and how long the CO2 remains in the product.
Future Directions for CO2 Utilisation
While some CO2 utilisation applications can offer significant climate benefits, their market size is relatively small. Therefore, the primary focus should be on dedicated storage in the broader context of carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS). However, support from research, development, and demonstration can accelerate the deployment of scalable CO2-derived products and services.
Tracking CO2 Capture and Utilisation
Carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) includes applications where CO2 is captured and then used either directly or indirectly in various products. Currently, around 230 million tonnes of CO2 are utilised annually, mainly in the fertiliser sector for urea production (~130 million tonnes) and for enhanced oil recovery (~80 million tonnes). Emerging utilisation pathways, especially CO2-based synthetic fuels, chemicals, and building aggregates, are gaining traction. If all announced projects are realised, they could capture about half the CO2 utilisation level for synthetic fuel production by 2030 projected in the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 scenario.
Country and Regional Highlights
USA: The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act increased the 45Q tax credit for CCUS, supporting CO2 utilisation. Additionally, the Clean Fuels & Products Shot initiative was launched in May 2023.
European Union: In April 2023, the ReFuelEU Aviation proposal was approved, imposing blending mandates on synthetic aviation fuels. Three CCU projects targeting synthetic fuel also received EU Innovation Fund support in 2022.
Belgium: In December 2022, the first large-scale plant converting steel emissions to ethanol was commissioned.
Canada: The 2022 federal budget proposed a tax credit for CCUS projects, especially for utilisation equipment.
CO2 Emissions and Climate Benefits
CO2 utilisation can offer climate benefits, but under specific conditions. The benefits depend on the CO2 source, the replaced product, the energy’s carbon intensity used for conversion, and the CO2’s retention duration in the product. In the Net Zero Emissions scenario, over 95% of captured CO2 in 2030 would be geologically stored, with less than 5% being utilised.
Activity in CO2 Utilisation
CO2 utilisation for synthetic fuels is emerging as the primary new utilisation route. Several large-scale plants are in operation, with around 15 more planned, targeting CO2 utilisation for synthetic hydrocarbon fuels. These plants could capture and utilise approximately 7 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030. The largest plant, in operation since 2020, captures up to 1 million tonnes of CO2 annually from a coal-to-liquids plant in China. The CO2 is then used to produce synthetic hydrocarbon fuels. Other large-scale plants are in operation or under construction in the United States, Europe, and Asia.
Notes: NZE = Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario. Only includes carbon capture and utilisation projects with an identified capture facility for the source of the CO2, with a capacity larger than 100 000 t CO2 per year. When the fraction of biogenic emissions out of total captured CO2 is unknown, it is assumed that the share of biogenic emissions is 50% in waste-to-energy plants.
Technology Installation and Infrastructure
CCU supply chains can leverage synergies with fossil-based synthetic fuel production and CCS. The extensive use of hydrogen and CO2 for conversion necessitates large-scale transport infrastructure, including pipelines and terminals.
Innovation in CCU
Key innovation areas include reducing the energy required for CO2 conversion and demonstrating the reliability of CO2-based construction materials. Early demonstrations can refine and reduce technology costs for carbon capture, storage, and utilisation.
Policy Support for CCU
Policy incentives, such as mandates, public procurement, low-emission standards, and tax credits, are bolstering CCU project development. For instance, the European Union’s ReFuelEU Aviation proposal and the USA’s 45Q tax credit are significant policy drivers.
Investment in CCU
Venture capital investment in CCU has been increasing, reflecting growing interest in CO2 conversion technologies. In 2022, global venture capital investment in utilisation companies reached nearly USD 500 million, up from USD 350 million in 2021. The largest investments were in companies developing CO2-based synthetic fuels and chemicals. Several companies also raised significant capital through initial public offerings. In addition, corporate investment and partnerships are growing, particularly in the aviation and automotive sectors, which are seeking to secure future supplies of low-carbon fuels and materials.
The energy sector, responsible for over 75% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, is at the heart of the climate change issue.
The path to achieving the objectives of the Green Deal lies in decarbonizing our current energy production and enhancing energy efficiency. This journey necessitates fresh strategies and ground-breaking technologies.
The Clean Energy Working Group, a consortium of 16 projects from five distinct Green Deal Calls, is at the forefront of this transformation. The group’s primary focus is on decarbonizing energy through the inception and implementation of innovative technologies. These include renewable energy solutions and their seamless integration into the existing energy infrastructure.
Being a part of this influential group, we are addressing key challenges such as:
• Scaling up hydrogen production
• Transforming CO2 emissions from industrial operations into synthetic fuels
• Advancing land-based renewable energy technologies and offshore renewable energy innovations.
Learn more about the Clean Energy Working Group’s projects and their contributions:
The future of energy is here, and it’s called e-fuels. These advanced, carbon-neutral fuels are set to revolutionize the energy sector, offering a sustainable solution to the world’s growing energy demands. But what exactly are e-fuels, and how do they work? Let’s delve into the science behind this promising technology and explore its potential for transforming our global energy landscape.
E-fuels, or synthetic fuels, are produced from hydrogen and CO2. The process, known as Power-to-X, converts renewable electricity into hydrogen through electrolysis. This hydrogen is then combined with carbon to produce fuels with high energy density, such as e-hydrogen, e-methane, e-methanol, or e-diesel.
These fuels are completely carbon-neutral, meaning they do not contribute to global warming. When burned, they release the same amount of CO2 that was used to produce them, resulting in a net-zero carbon footprint. This makes e-fuels a promising solution for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change.
The Role of E-Fuels in the Future of Energy
E-fuels have the potential to play a crucial role in our transition to a carbon-neutral future. They offer several advantages over traditional fossil fuels and other renewable energy sources. For one, they can be used in existing combustion engines, making them a practical and cost-effective solution for reducing emissions from the transport sector.
Moreover, e-fuels can be integrated into the existing fuel infrastructure, providing a seamless transition from fossil fuels. They also contribute to energy security and stability, offering a reliable and sustainable source of energy that is not subject to the fluctuations of the fossil fuel market.
However, the production of e-fuels is currently more expensive than that of traditional fuels, and they are not yet produced on a large enough scale to meet global energy demands. As such, significant investment in research and development is needed to improve the efficiency of e-fuel production and bring down costs.
The Future is Bright for E-Fuels
Despite the challenges, experts are optimistic about the future of e-fuels. With the right political support and technological innovation, e-fuels could become a major player in the global energy market. As we strive towards a carbon-neutral future, e-fuels offer a promising path forward, providing a sustainable and efficient solution to our global energy needs.
In conclusion, e-fuels represent a significant step forward in our quest for sustainable, carbon-neutral energy. As we continue to innovate and develop this promising technology, the future of energy looks brighter than ever.