Home Business The race for synthetic fuels is on

The race for synthetic fuels is on


The race for biofuels, that is to say which are not derived from hydrocarbons, is well and truly launched. There are many actors and several technologies are tested, without it being possible to say yet if there is one which will take precedence over the others.

In any case, the announcements are multiplying. TotalEnergies thus unveiled, Thursday, April 14, a project to create a sustainable air fuel (SAF) production unit with the Japanese Eneos, which would transform its Negishi refinery, south of Tokyo. The objective is to produce 300,000 tonnes of fuel by 2025 from waste and residues such as cooking oils and animal fats.

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The French energy company is at the forefront on the subject. It has already converted its site at La Mède (Bouches-du-Rhône) into a biorefinery and is in the process of doing the same with its refinery at Grandpuits (Seine-et-Marne), which should produce 170,000 tonnes of airborne biofuel in 2024.

Regulatory pressure

Demand is driven by new regulatory constraints. France has imposed for this year 1% incorporation of SAF in the tanks of aircraft taking off from its territory. This share will be increased to 2% in 2025 and 5% in 2030. Seven other European countries, including Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, have committed to these thresholds. For their part, the Japanese authorities will require 10% sustainable aviation fuel from 2030.

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Aircraft manufacturers consider that there are no technical obstacles to imposing higher levels. But many airlines are holding back, given the cost. “Fuel represents 35% of the cost of a flightexplains Marc Durance, of the firm Indefi. Before the development of hydrogen aircraft, which will take a long time for medium and long-haul flights, synthetic fuels may be an alternative provided that cost is combined with energy performance. »

Combine hydrogen with CO2

The public aid currently distributed as part of the recovery plans should make it possible to reduce costs. Other avenues are also being studied, in particular to produce synthetic fuels. One of the largest French projects is in Isère, with the alliance between EDF and the cement manufacturer Vicat. Hydrogen obtained by a 330 MW electrolyser powered by green electricity will be combined with CO2 recovered from the cement plant’s kilns to provide what is called “e-methanol”. This fuel has a neutral carbon footprint. It is liquid at room temperature and easy to handle.

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“The objective is to manufacture 200,000 tonnes of it per year, which will be used as fuel for boats”, assures Alexandre Perra, EDF’s director of innovation. Maritime traffic will have to decarbonize very quickly, and the idea hitherto put forward of running ships on gas rather than fuel oil is no longer gaining momentum. For this sector, “e-methanol” is today all the more considered as an alternative as it does not require changing engines.

Porsche launches into hydrogen production

Car manufacturers are also interested. In September, Porsche associated with Siemens thus launched the construction of a factory in Chilean Patagonia, to produce hydrogen from electricity of wind origin and CO2 recovered from a nearby mining site.

The two companies are aiming for 55 million liters of “e-fuel” in 2024 and ten times more in 2026. According to them, this new type of fuel would make it possible to reduce the fossil fuel CO2 emissions of engines by up to 90%. combustion.

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