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Here are German companies toasting Brussels-approved e-fuels

Here are German companies toasting Brussels-approved e-fuels

E-fuels respond to a double need: to save internal combustion engines from the 2035 ban, given that the EU is unable to compete with China on electric cars, and to allow car manufacturers not to upset their supply chains. It is Germany in particular that celebrates the OK from the Commission. Here because.

The European Commission and Germany have reached an agreement on e-fuels. This was announced on 25 March by the Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, one of the most ardent supporters of the Fit for 55 plan wanted by the Community government of Ursula von der Leyen.

Plan which undergoes a substantial derogation although the agreement is not completely distorted, in fact leaving the biofuels supported by Italy outside the door ( Eni has been investing in it for a long time ). Ignoring Rome's requests, the agreement between Brussels and Berlin should be sufficient to unblock the institutional impasse that had arisen for the approval of the ban on the sale of cars with internal combustion engines starting from 2035.


E-fuels are produced by chemically combining hydrogen and carbon dioxide. They should not be confused with biofuels, which, as the name suggests, derive from waste oil, other types of waste or even vegetables such as corn.


However, there is a problem that is also the main argument against those who oppose them: hydrogen is obtained by electrolysis and to do so you need a lot of electricity and a lot of water.

And then there is another issue: for e-fuels to truly have zero CO2 emissions, the electricity needed for production must come from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, water or tidal sources. An argument that at the moment does not even favor the electric car, given that in most cases the energy that powers the gigafactories comes from fossil sources (oil, gas, coal).

The other obstacle concerns the costliness of the production processes which causes the price per liter of an e-fuel to be around 10 euros, but it is a bottleneck that all experimental technologies pass through, easily overcome by production in mass and with massive investments in R&D aimed at making the procedures less complex: it is estimated that the development and diffusion especially in aviation could bring it down to 2 euros per litre, effectively equalizing it with today's prices of traditional fuels.


Germany has been studying the potential of synthetic petrols for some time (the investments of Porsche and Bosch are especially known) and hosts five main plants while several car manufacturers have moved to produce e-fuel elsewhere.

Inratec has opened the world's largest pilot plant for the production of sustainable e-kerosene in Emsland, Lower Saxony in 2021. The company is planning a pioneering industrial plant for the production of sustainable synthetic fuels near Frankfurt Airport . Up to 4.6 million liters of Ineratec e-fuels will be produced annually from 10,000 tonnes of biogenic CO2 and renewable electricity. Among the partners: Engie, Safran and MPC, while the investors are Extantia, Planet A, High-Tech Gründerfonds, FO Holding and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

Then there is the plant of Chemieanlagenbau Chemnitz GmbH (Cac), already active in the sectors of inorganic chemistry, refining and petrochemistry, gas technology and industrial plants, with around 400 employees, 270 of whom at the headquarters in Chemnitz. CAC is focusing on the production of eGasoline and eKerosene through Methanol-fuel with the goal of reaching 1,000,000 liters per year from 2030.

A third project is carried out by Synhelion Germany GmbH , the German Aerospace Center eV (DLR) and the Jülich Solar Institute of the Aachen University of Applied Sciences, with the support of the German government which by the end of 2021 under the Energy Research, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) has written a check for 3.92 million euros to build the world's first plant for the industrial production of solar fuels at the Brainergy Park Jülich in the North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. The plant will cover the entire process, from concentrated sunlight to synthetic liquid fuel, for the first time on an industrial scale. The end products will be solar kerosene and solar gasoline.

The plant will use Synhelion's solar thermal process to produce solar fuels based on the process heat of concentrated sunlight. In 2019, Synhelion had already demonstrated the feasibility of its technology under real operating conditions in a small pilot plant with ETH Zurich. In 2020, Synhelion successfully tested a second prototype in artificial sunlight at the DLR's Synlight Facility. To bring solar fuels to market as quickly as possible, in May 2021 Synhelion entered into a partnership with Wood, active in consultancy and engineering for energy and the built environment. As part of this collaboration, a syngas test facility was set up on the solar tower of the DLR in Jülich to demonstrate the technology on an industrial scale.

H&R Group, Mabanaft GmbH & Co. KG, P2X-Europe GmbH & Co. KG, INERATEC GmbH are also working in the production of efuels with the Next Gate plant.

Among the older plants, under development since 2017, is the one in the far north of the country by Solarbelt gGmbH, a non-profit subsidiary of Atmosfair gGmbH founded in 2019, which is currently still financed exclusively by Atmosfair. Solarbelt gGmbH was founded to assume the liability risk for installation and operation under the Environmental Liability Act. The plant is entirely pre-financed with funds from Atmosfair, there are no public funds or third-party financing through companies (venture capital, etc.) but Lufthansa is one of the main customers. With a capacity of 350 tonnes of synthetic fuel oil per year, the plant far exceeds laboratory scale and will supply e-kerosene to German airlines. It is the first plant in the world to produce ASTM approved e-kerosene fuel oil for commercial aviation. The technical components and engineering work associated with assembling all components in a production facility come almost exclusively from Germany.

The plant first produces a synthesis gas from the starting materials CO2 and hydrogen (electrolysis) via the Reverse Water Gas Shift Reaction (RWGS) and then synthetic fuel oil (SynCrude) via the FischerTropsch synthesis. The latter is then delivered by Atmosfair to a refinery, which processes the synthetic fuel oil into Jet A1, approved to ASTM standards for all jet engines used in commercial aviation and brought to market by the refinery (delivery to a airport). Since the CO2 released during the combustion of synthetic kerosene was previously obtained from a biogenic source (biogas plant and direct air capture), the overall process is CO2 neutral.


And then there are the car manufacturers. Porsche, it is known, has been betting on e-fuels for some time. The Zuffenhausen-based company has just started the industrial production of synthetic fuels at the "Haru Oni" pilot plant in Punta Arenas, Chile, costing over 45 million euros. The project involves several international partners, including the German Siemens, the Italian Enel and HIF Global.

The company led by Blume has so far invested over 94 million euros in the development and production of e-fuels and exactly one year ago, in April '22, it also paid out around 70 million euros to acquire the 12.5 % of HIF Global. “We can adjust fiscal policy to make e-fuels cheaper. Politics should support investments to make prices more attractive," said the CEO of the Stuttgart company. “It's worth it. I know of no other way to decarbonise cars with combustion engines», concluded Blume at the presentation of Porsche's financial results which decree a 13.6% increase in sales to 37.6 billion euros with an operating result that rose by 27.4 % to 6.8 billion euros, the yield leapt to 18% from 16% a year earlier. The subsidiary of the Volkswagen group has been listed since September but in a short time it surpassed the parent company by market value, exceeding 100 billion dollars.

Audi has instead entered into agreements with the innovative startup Sunfire with which it has opened the pilot plant in Dresden, testing the fuel developed using PtL (Power-To-Liquids) technology to transform water and carbon dioxide into synthetic diesel, both in pure form and as an additive for traditional fuels on board an Audi A8.

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL on Mon, 27 Mar 2023 10:46:55 +0000.