Future liquid fuels: An enabling framework is needed to facilitate cooperation and investment

A week prior to the agreement on new EU renewable energy rules, experts and professionals of liquid fuels met in Brussels to discuss the perspectives for low-carbon liquids in the future energy and heat mix.

While there is no doubt renewable electricity will play an increasing role on the way to a decarbonised energy mix in Europe, liquid fuels will continue to supply a significant part of energy for various uses. This was one of the key conclusions from the technical workshop organised in Brussels on 6 June 2018 by Eurofuel, the European Heating Oil Association, as part of the EU Energy Days.

Workshop Website photo 1

(Eurofuel’s Technical Workshop, 6 June 2018)

The event was well attended by representatives from a wide range of companies and organisations involved in conventional, renewable and synthetic liquid fuels, as well as academics, and enabled a lively discussion about the development status of new liquid fuels and their perspectives to achieve EU and international climate protection commitments.  

Renewable sources only account for 19% of the EU’s energy supply in the heating and cooling sector today, said Eva Hoos, a representative from the European Commission’s DG Energy. Much effort will be needed to achieve a decarbonised building sector by the middle of this century, both in terms of building efficiency and heating equipment performance. To cater for the huge variety of climatic and housing conditions, all solutions will have their place in future, including liquid fuels, according to Ms Hoos. Liquid solutions are an asset to store energy and hybrid heating systems will likely play a major part in the transition to a lower carbon-intensive model. Liquid and hybrid solutions can contribute to the objectives of the upcoming EU mid-century strategy expected in the autumn.

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(Eva Hoos)

The decarbonisation challenge is actually about de-fossilisation of our energy sources, or more precisely about closing the carbon cycle, explained Klaus Lucka from TEC4FUELS. Many projects have been carried out across Europe to develop low-carbon liquid fuels from biological or synthetic origin. The key advantage of developing such fuels is the possibility to further use existing infrastructure (cars, boilers…) while stopping or drastically reducing exogenous carbon emissions. When choosing the preferred type of fuel, account should be taken of its potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which needs to be above 70% according to the EU renewable energy directive. The generation of such fuels is proven technology. Key challenges are the need to scale up production amounts, achieve reasonable prices and secure consumer acceptance.  

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(Klaus Lucka (left))

Professor Reinhard Rauch, from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, gave further details about the generation processes for biomass to liquid and the use of catalysts to produce high-quality fuels and chemicals. To facilitate the upscaling of existing demonstration projects, he called in particular for a clear regulatory framework and investor certainty after 2030.

Liquid fuels, and more particularly Power-to-Liquid or “powerfuels”, will be indispensable for Europe to meet ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets of 80, 95% or even higher targets by the middle of the century. According to a major study conducted by the German energy agency (dena), which Christoph Jugel presented at the workshop, technology-mix scenarios including a role for low-carbon liquid fuels alongside renewable electricity are far cheaper to achieve emission reductions than other approaches based on full electrification of energy supply. Estimates for Germany show a EUR 500 to 600 billion difference between both approaches to the energy transition. Mr Jugel announced a “Global Alliance for “Powerfuels”” to be launched shortly, in order to facilitate the deployment of such fuels.

Workshop Website photo 4

(Christoph Jugel (left), Reinhard Rauch (middle) and Moritz Bellingen (right))

Renewable forms of heating oil are already available in certain markets, as demonstrated by June Vastveit from the Norwegian company Eco-1. With a nation-wide ban on fossil oil heating entering into force in 2020, Norwegian homeowners currently using oil or paraffin for heating now have an alternative to electrical heat pumps, since they can purchase bio-heating oil and continue using their existing appliances. For residential and commercial buildings, hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO) is supplied without the need to adjust heating systems. This is a very high-quality and odourless product. For larger heating units, small adjustments may be necessary while using dimethyl ether (DME).

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(Moritz Bellingen (left), June Vastveit (middle) and Tristan Suffys (right))

The geography of energy production may also evolve with future liquid fuels, with smaller-scale and more decentralised generation capacities. Gerhard Muggen from BTG-BTL presented the pyrolysis technique with the example of the Empyro facilities in the Netherlands. This unit processes biomass from lignocellulosic origin to produce second-generation bioliquid with an overall conversion efficiency of 85%. 20 million litres of oil had been produced by December 2017. The pyrolysis oil can be used directly for large heating units or further upgraded and processed to generate other products. Mr Muggen argued for a future energy production model based on decentralised liquid biomass generation and centralised bio-oil processing.

Workshop Website photo 6

(Gerhard Muggen)

Power-to-Liquid technology models developed by Ineratec are also based on a decentralised generation model. As Dr Tim Böltken explained, renewable hydrocarbons are produced in a compact chemical plant, out of carbon dioxide and hydrogen. These innovative compact plants are integrated into containers, which can easily and quickly be installed wherever needed. The first pilot plant was built in Finland in 2016 and has produced 600 litres of renewable fuel. Several containers can be combined to scale up the production of renewable fuels.

The first industrial-scale Power-to-Liquid biodiesel facility will be developed in 2019 by the car manufacturer Audi, in collaboration with Ineratec. Arne Siemens from Audi presented the project, which aims to generate 400,000 litres of “e-diesel” per year. The product will reduce emissions of vehicles and will lower fleet emissions. An appropriate EU regulatory framework and relevant standards will be needed to enable the development of such fuels.

Workshop Website photo 7

(Arne Siemens (left) and Tim Böltken (second from right))

Algae also offer a potential source for renewable fuels. They are very resilient organisms and provide year-round harvests. Furthermore, fuels generated from algae do not compete with food applications and meet EU sustainability criteria. Khurram Gaba from ExxonMobil presented his corporation’s scientific research partnerships on algae-based fuels, as well as a pilot production scheme which should generate 10,000 barrels per day by 2025.

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(Khurram Gaba)

Alessandro Bartelloni from FuelsEurope presented the potential of low-carbon liquid fuels for the mineral oil industry and the expected transition of EU refineries. He called for a consistent regulatory framework, enabling investor confidence.

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(Khurram Gaba (left) and Alessandro Bartelloni (right))

Summing up the debates, Eurofuel’s president, Moritz Bellingen, called for technology-neutral policies and a stable regulatory framework to attract investors. Research and development capacities should be stepped up. Cooperation with all relevant stakeholders is also crucial, particularly with end users.

Workshop Website photo 10

(Moritz Bellingen)


Photos: Eurofuel, Hanover Communications.

header Eurofuel E Fuels



Eva Hoos (European Commission)

Klaus Lucka (TEC4FUELS)

Prof. Reinhard Rauch (KIT)

Christoph Jugel (dena)

June Karin Hesby Vastveit (Eco-1)

Gerhard Muggen (BTG-BTL)

Dr. Tim Böltken (Ineratec)

Arne Siemens (Audi)

Khurram Gaba (ExxonMobil)

Alessandro Bartelloni (FuelsEurope)



Click here to see the programme or download it. 



Click here for further information on our speakers.



Click here for further information on the venue.



Tristan Suffys, Secretary General of Eurofuel

, +32 2 893 97 82.

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