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Alliance for Synthetic Fuels Launches in Europe

DaimlerChrysler, Renault, Royal Dutch Shell, Sasol Chevron and the Volkswagen group are launching an association—The Alliance for Synthetic Fuels in Europe (ASFE)—to promote synthetic fuels in Europe and to support research, demonstration projects, and public-private cooperation in the area.

ASFE is focusing on synthetic fuels made with the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process from natural gas (Gas-to-Liquids, GTL), coal (Coal-to-Liquids, CTL) or biomass (Biomass-to-Liquids, BTL). The Fischer-Tropsch process produces a range of near-zero sulfur and aromatics transport fuels and chemicals.

Of the three processes, GTL is the most commercially advanced, with a few major of plants being built or planned worldwide and the prospect of increasing product availability from 2006 onwards. BTL—“second-generation biofuels”—needs further R&D investment is of great interest to European policymakers.

While the fuels resulting from the Fischer-Tropsch process are cleaner-burning in operation, thereby resulting in reductions in tailpipe emissions (particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons), the production process itself is energy-intensive and can throw off a large amount of carbon dioxide.

The use of CTL or GTL fuels results in greenhouse-gas emissions comparable to those produced by burning petroleum-based fuels, while the F-T fuels produced from biomass can contribute to vehicular greenhouse gas reductions of up to 90%—an important aspect of the fuel for European automakers, who must meet reduced CO2 emission standards.

F-T synthetic fuels can be used neat or in blends in existing diesel engines, distribution and refueling infrastructure.

Synthetic fuels can make a real contribution in many of Europe’s policy areas: combating climate change, reducing energy consumption, diversifying energy supplies, ensuring security of energy supply and improving air quality.

—Thomas Weber, member of the Board of Management of DaimlerChrysler

Synthetic fuels made from natural gas and biomass can also reduce petroleum dependency. They provide a cost effective, realistic development path between today’s fuels and longer term renewable energy.

—Rob Routs, Royal Dutch Shell plc executive director

The companies introduced ASFE with a half-day conference in Brussels attended by European Commissioners Günter Verheugen and Andris Piebalgs and Austrian Minister for Environment Josef Pröll.

Comments

FossilFuelMike

Is it just me or should this site be renamed FossilFuelCongress?

An Engineer

It is just you. "The use of CTL or GTL fuels results in greenhouse-gas emissions comparable to those produced by burning petroleum-based fuels, while the F-T fuels produced from biomass can contribute to vehicular greenhouse gas reductions of up to 90%—an important aspect of the fuel for European automakers, who must meet reduced CO2 emission standards."

t

What is the total reduction in greenhouse gases? Isn't vehicular reduction just applicable to emissions while the vehicle is traveling?

Rafael Seidl

Alternatives to gasoline and diesel (incl. CNG) will not reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of motor vehicles, but they will diversify energy sources for this key sector of the economy. Biodiesel, ethanol and biogas also benefit farmers - though mostly by way of subsidies.

Real greenhouse gas footprint reduction will require more fuel-efficient drivetrains, switching to R744-based a/c systems, lower vehicle weight, improved aerodynamics, better traffic control and less aggressive driving. Progress is being made on all fronts, but between stricter government regulations and customer demand for ever-more performance and comfort the net trend is unfortunately flat at best in Europe.

Reed Braman

Raphael brings a good point. It's going to require a lot more than switching to a miracle fuel, but even slow progress is progress.

I see where FFMike is coiming from. It seems like many of the major players in the energy game are looking for AN answer and not necessarily the BEST answer. The 'oil dependeny' topic is hot, and while we should be looking to another source, I get the feeling that some of these may be as polluting or close.

In repsonse to An Engineer: "BTL—“second-generation biofuels”—needs further R&D investment is of great interest to European policymakers." The biomass thing just isn't here yet.

An Engineer

"Alternatives to gasoline and diesel (incl. CNG) will not reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of motor vehicles, but they will diversify energy sources for this key sector of the economy. Biodiesel, ethanol and biogas also benefit farmers - though mostly by way of subsidies."
No, biofuels are "carbon neutral".

Here are some valid concerns with some of the biofuels you mention:
Biodiesel: Needs a rather clean oil/fat (triglyceride to be technical) as a feedstock. Per definition that is expensive to produce (even from old cooking oil). There also is not enough triglyceride to make a dent in oil consumption.
Ethanol: Needs energy intensive process to separate from water. Fermentation also requires a fairly clean sugar solution which requires energy to produce.
Biogas: Good source for local use. Transporting low BTU (400 - 600 BTU/ft^3) is not feasible.

Solution?
Most promising technology right now, I believe is gasification/Fischer Tropsch, which allows you to use a number of different feedstocks and produces a liquid fuel (easy transportation, handling and storage). The product is essentially identical to existing fuels, which allows blending in any convenient ratio. The F-T product can also serve as a feedstock for petrochemicals.

An Engineer

"The biomass thing just isn't here yet."
You are kidding, right? Everyday vast amounts of biomass goes into landfills (~40% of landfill waste is paper). In the landfills, it is broken down by anaerobic digestion, producing CO2, odor and CH4 (20 times worse GHG than CO2).

We could divert all biomass from landfills to gasification/Fischer Tropsch (a proven technology, though usually fed coal/natural gas). This would be a huge envirinmental benefit (reducing CH4 and odor emissions from landfills, extending landfill use) while reducing CO2 emissions (instead of fossil, renewable). It won't replace all imported oil, but it is a start.

The biomass is right there under our noses, waiting to be used. If only one could convince our brave leaders that "biomass" does not mean [another] farm subsidy in disguise...

An Engineer

"The biomass thing just isn't here yet."
It appears that of all renewable energies, biomass has its nose in front, see http://www.greencarcongress.com/2006/03/clean_edge_glob.html
2005 figures, $ billions
Biofuels: 15.7
Wind: 11.8
Solar: 11.2

Biofuels lead wind by ~$4 billion/year. I expect that lead to increase, inlike the authors of the study.

Andrey

Anaerobic decomposition of one dry ton of domestic refuse produses biogas amount which carry energy equivalent to 1/20 ton of gasoline. In developed countries almost all biogas from landfills is captured and used to produce heat and electricity.

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