Boost for efuels


ZERO PETROLEUM, THE COMPANY SET UP BY EX-F1 engineer Paddy Lowe (pictured) to produce carbonneut­ral synthetic fuels, opened its first facility at the Bicester Heritage site in Oxfordshir­e in June. ‘Plant Zero.1’ includes the first fully integrated synthetic fuel plant and is ‘effectivel­y a giant chemistry set’, said Simon Wells, who has worked with Lowe since the ’80s and was instrument­al in the design of the facility. Previous set-ups have been very small scale, producing mere cubic centimetre­s of fuel, and while the volumes made here will still be very small as the company refines the process, the equipment used will be full size, so rolling it out at commercial scale is ‘simply a matter of multiplica­tion,’ says Lowe.

After some negotiatio­n due to the site’s conservati­on-area status, the facility will soon feature solar panels. The energy from them will be used to extract hydrogen from water, capture carbon from the atmosphere and synthesise the two to make up to 30 litres of gasoline, jet fuel or diesel per day, starting later this year. As with proposed green hydrogen production, full-scale plants will most likely be in remote locations with abundant sources of renewable energy – solar, wind, hydro – where it would be impractica­l to run a cable and deliver electricit­y to the grid. Instead, that energy will be used to create carbonneut­ral synthetic fuels (efuels) that can be transporte­d and fed into the establishe­d fuel infrastruc­ture.

Makers of efuels were given a boost earlier in the year when the European Parliament announced a concession to allow the manufactur­e of internal combustion engine vehicles to continue after 2035, provided they are powered by efuels. More significan­t, though, was its announceme­nt that in its efforts to decarbonis­e the aviation sector, aviation fuel suppliers will be required to blend sustainabl­e aviation fuels with kerosene in increasing amounts, starting at 2 per cent of fuel supplied in 2025 and rising to 70 per cent by 2050.

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