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What are low-carbon liquid fuels?

Low-carbon liquid fuels are sustainable liquid fuels from non-petroleum origin, with no or very limited net CO2 emissions during their production and use compared to fossil-based fuels. They have a strategic role to play in the transition to a climate-neutral economy.

First blended with conventional fuels, low-carbon fuels will progressively replace fossil-based fuels. The carbon intensity of the fuels will depend on the share of low-carbon liquid fuels blended in the end-product. Only once the fossil component in the fuels sold at the pump is completely replaced by low-carbon liquid fuels, will these fuels be carbon-neutral.

Contributing to reducing the GHG intensity of all existing and new vehicles

Low-carbon liquid fuels as they come on the market will enable to progressively decarbonise the entire car fleet, existing and new vehicles, on the road. Alternative technologies such a Battery Electric Vehicles or Hydrogen Fuel Cells will require instead a progressive replacement of the car fleet.

Therefore, low-carbon liquid fuels will, for the foreseeable future, provide a competitive solution compared to alternative technologies, and reduce pressure and cost of achieving complete fleet turnover to ensure climate neutrality, also supporting a just transition across Europe.

 

2020

Making the Internal Combustion Engine a net-zero emission vehicle

Internal Combustion Engines powered with low-carbon liquid fuels* (biomass, waste, renewables and recycled CO2) will be as sustainable as Battery Electric Vehicles powered by green electricity.

2020

*These will be climate-neutral through recycled or biogenic CO2 and low-carbon technologies in the production phase (CCS & H2).

The technologies driving the transition

Capitalising on our technological know-how and flexible infrastructures, we will increasingly switch to new feedstock to progressively reduce net carbon emissions of liquid hydrocarbons.

Sustainable 1st generation biofuels

Food-crop based biofuels

Feedstock: Sustainable food- and feed-crop (e.g. feedstocks such as sugar crops, starch crops), and sustainable vegetable oils;

Technology: Transesterification, fermentation, hydrogenation of vegetable oils. e.g. Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), Ethanol, FAME (Fatty acid methyl ester).

Advanced biofuels

Hydrotreated Vegetable Oils/Biodiesel, Biomass-to-Liquid and Waste-to-Liquid

Feedstock: Non-food-crop based such as lignocellulosic biomass including wood and residues from forestry, agricultural residues (straw and stover) and energy-crops or waste materials (e.g. waste from industry, waste oil & fats – e. g. waste cooking oils – or solid waste);

Technology: Multiple routes, including fermentation (Ethanol), hydrogenation (HVO) or transesterification of waste oils & fats (FAME), thermochemical conversion routes such as BTL (gasification and Fischer-Tropsh synthesis) or pyrolysis/hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL).

Note: the difference between sustainable 1st generation biofuels and advanced biofuels is related to the feedstock.

E-fuels

Power-to-Liquid synthetic fuels:

Feedstock: Renewable electricity produced from wind, solar or hydro and captured CO2.

Technology: Water electrolysis + fuel synthesis (e.g. Fischer-Tropsch; methanol route).

E-fuels are synthetic fuels, resulting from the synthesis of green hydrogen produced by the electrolysis of water, using green electricity and carbon dioxide (CO2) captured either from a concentrated source (flue gases from an industrial site) or from the air (Direct Air Capture).

The Commission Communication “A hydrogen strategy for a Climate-neutral Europe” of July 2020 outlines the need for other forms of low-carbon hydrogen in the short and medium term, primarily to rapidly reduce emissions from existing hydrogen production and support the parallel and future uptake of renewable hydrogen. This low-carbon hydrogen, also known as blue hydrogen, is produced from gas and Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS)/ Carbon Capture & Use (CCU).

A combination of technologies must be deployed in many plants across Europe to deliver low-carbon liquid fuels at scale

Myth-busters