Decarbonisation Technology - May 2024 Issue

Towards net zero with synthetic fuel gasoline

How the integration of a synthetic gasoline production plant into an existing refinery is crucial for reducing CO2 emissions while ensuring continuity of supply

Constanza Berckemeyer CAC Engineering

T he world is currently facing two contrasting scenarios. On the one hand, national governments around the world have committed to highly ambitious goals to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO 2 ), methane, and other greenhouse gases (GHG) (UNFCCC, 2024) via their Nationally Determined Contributions. On the other hand, the demand for oil and gas continues to grow, prices are up in all markets, and production has increased (OPEC, 2023). Achieving the goal of limiting the increase in the global average temperature to less than 2ºC while aiming for no more than 1.5ºC by 2050 requires a significant shift in the entire global energy supply and demand system that we all use today. Many of the world’s top companies have committed to net zero goals with emissions reduction targets, and are playing a key role as first movers. Finding substitutes that can promote such a systemic change will be essential for balancing production processes and their economy. As the world transitions to lower carbon energy sources, the role of hydrocarbons in the energy market will gradually decline. However, the use of crude oil as a feedstock for petrochemicals will persist and even increase, mainly in non-OECD countries (OPEC, 2023). The transport sector is a significant contributor to global GHG emissions and is predominantly reliant on conventional fossil fuels. Together with electrification, substitution of fossil fuels with renewable or low-carbon fuels represents a transformative approach to mitigating these environmental impacts and steering the sector towards a sustainable future. In developed economies, the transition to electric vehicles is underway. However, low-

carbon fuels (synthetic fuels, renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RFNBOs) or biofuels) represent a viable alternative as a means of decarbonising the internal combustion engine, which will continue to comprise the largest segment of the existing road vehicle fleet for at least the next decade. The role of synthetic fuels in diversifying decarbonisation options for road, aviation, and maritime transport is recognised. Synthetic low-carbon fuels are drop-in fuels that are fully fungible with conventional fossil fuels. They exhibit the same advantages of high energy density and can make use of existing storage and transportation infrastructure (IEA, 2024). From the market perspective, low-emission fuels are at a pivotal juncture. Governments are introducing policies that support low-carbon options, including incentives such as synthetic fuel mandates, which will create the commercial drive to speed up the transition to low-carbon transport. The automotive industry’s support for synthetic fuels (commonly named e-fuels) is growing, especially in Germany, Italy, France, and Hungary. The highly influential motor racing industry is transitioning to low-carbon fuels (Oltermann, 2023). Companies are introducing net zero strategies in all markets, and more than 200 low-carbon fuel projects are currently under development globally. However, synthetic fuels are expected to remain more expensive than fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. With more than 60 years of engineering and construction experience within the refining, petrochemical, and chemical sectors, CAC Engineering has used these experiences to develop substitute products and solutions. It has


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