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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.

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 vegetable oils).

Technology: Transesterification, fermentation, hydrogenation. e.g. Ethanol, FAME (Fatty acid methyl ester).

Hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO)

Hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), depending on their feedstock, can be either classified as 1st generation biofuels or advanced biofuels.


Sustainable 1st generation biofuels:  Sustainable vegetable oil;

Advanced biofuels:  Waste oil & fats (e. G. Waste cooking oils).

Technology: Hydrogenation of vegetable oils, and waste oils & fats.

Advanced biofuels

Biomass-to-Liquid and Waste-to-Liquid

Feedstock: Lignocellulosic Biomass including wood and residues from forestry, waste-wood from industry, agricultural residues (straw and stover) and energy-crops – option to use other feeds in niche areas, such as municipal solid waste.

Technology: Multiple routes, including thermochemical conversion routes such as BTL (gasification and Fischer-Tropsh synthesis) or pyrolysis/hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL).


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.