Ahead of the release of the European Commission’s 2050 “Long-Term Strategy” for emissions reduction, European Heating Oil Association (Eurofuel), European Confederation of Fuel Distributors (ECFD) and Union Pétrolière Européenne Indépendante (UPEI), three Brussels-based organisations representing European petroleum fuel and heating oil suppliers and distributors – jointly with their respective German members – discussed with stakeholders the long term potential for renewable liquid fuels.
Held in Brussels on November 21, 2018, the event gathered experts and professionals from the transport and heating fuels sector that also debated the findings of the Prognos Study “Status and Perspectives for Liquid Energy Sources in the Energy Transition”. Commissioned by the four organisations representing the mineral oil sector in Germany, the study focussed on an analysis of the German market though the findings can, arguably, be extrapolated on an EU wide level.
Presenting the study, Jens Hobohm of Prognos AG, explained how the development of Power-to-Liquid (PtL) or e-fuels would be central to meeting Germany’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions goals for 2050. All indications are that, notably for the aviation, maritime and road freight sectors liquid fuels will be required in order to meet the demand for energy density as well as to address other aspects which widespread make (battery) electrification complicated and too costly to achieve.
The technology to deliver carbon neutral liquid fuels exists, through the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process and with the use of renewable electricity, however major investment is required in order to scale up and lower costs in order to bring the product to market.
Debating the study findings was a panel of experts: from the vehicle manufacturers, Ralf Diemer of the VDA office in Brussels, Christian Küchen representing the German refiners association MWV, Johan Mattart head of the ECFD Brussels office and Carlos Calvo Ambel, Manager for Analysis and Climate at the European NGO Transport & Environment (T&E).
Whilst there was broad consensus that e-fuels are a solution for the aviation sector where the limited potential of electrification was acknowledged, speaking for T&E, Carlos Calvo Ambel expressed concerns about the efficiency losses of converting renewable electricity into liquid fuels as opposed to battery technology.
Ralf Diemer and Christian Küchen both called for the importance of not limiting the scope of e-fuels to the aviation sector, not only as alternatives to electrification are also needed for other transport sectors, but also because of the limited scope for the aviation sector to undertake the necessary investments required to bring e-fuels to the market.
Being able to use existing infrastructure such as internal combustion engine cars or boilers with low-emission liquids in future was also acknowledged by some speakers as an advantage in particular for consumers.
There was a widespread call for political support through the recognition of the role of innovative, carbon-neutral fuels and their incentivisation in the legislative framework, and Johan Mattart warned on the other hand, against restrictive measures which curb investment and innovation.