Decarbonisation Technology - May 2024 Issue

How can we substitute fossils with renewable/low-carbon fuels?


Methanol-to-Fuel Standard gasoline DIN EN 228

Renewable fuels, including hydrogen, biofuels, and synthetic fuels (e-fuels) produced through sustainable processes, offer a promising avenue to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation. Biofuels derived from sustainable organic matter, for instance, present a carbon-neutral alternative as the CO2 emitted during combustion is offset by the carbon absorbed during biomass growth. When produced using fully renewable methods like electrolysis powered by clean energy sources, hydrogen provides a zero-emission fuel option for various transport modes. Additionally, synthetic fuels, created by capturing and utilising CO2 emitted during their production, offer a closed carbon loop, contributing to a circular carbon economy. This circular economy is one of the many advantages that the methanol route provides to synthetic fuel production. Other advantages are the existing transport and storage infrastructure and the 100 million ton methanol market around the globe. The benefits of substituting fossil fuels extend beyond emissions reduction. Embracing renewable and low-carbon alternatives fosters energy security by diversifying the fuel mix and reducing dependence on geopolitically sensitive resources. Moreover, it stimulates innovation and investment in green technologies, creating a ripple effect of economic opportunities and job creation in the burgeoning sustainable energy sector. To realise the full potential of this substitution, collaborative efforts from governments, industries, and consumers are imperative.

Density (at 15°C ), kg/m³ 720-760


Paraffins, vol% Olefines, vol% Naphthenes, vol% Aromatics, vol%



max. 18


26-35 0.1-0.5

max. 35 max. 1 max. 2.7 min. 95 min. 85 FBP 210 min. 360 40-60

Benzene, vol% Durene, vol%


Oxygen content, wt%

0.02-0.3 92-95* 82-85 50-60 40-210


Vapour pressure, kPa Boiling range, °C Oxidation stability


* As blend with ethanol (E10), higher RON can be reached easily

a major programme to develop technologies for the production of synthetic fuels via the methanol route, the first of which, synthetic gasoline, is now at the market readiness level. CAC’s patented synthetic gasoline production technology has proven reliable, with more than 6,000 hours of operation in an industrial-scale demonstration facility (CAC Synfuel, 2023). This process produces a drop-in synthetic gasoline with a CO2 footprint reduction of up to 90%, depending on the methanol source. Substituting fossil fuels with renewable or low-carbon alternatives is a pivotal imperative in expediting the rapid decarbonisation of the transport sector (see box below). Table 1 Technologies for processing of heavy petroleum and residual feedstock by moving catalytic bed

Renewable or low-carbon alternatives

Renewable hydrogen is produced from the electrolysis of water, using electricity generated from renewable sources, or through the reforming of biogas or biochemical conversion of biomass. Renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RNFBOs) include renewable hydrogen and hydrogen-derived fuels produced without the use of biomass. Under the EU REDII, GHG savings should be at least 70% compared with the equivalent fossil fuel.

Renewable biofuels use sustainable biomass together with renewable hydrogen. Low-carbon hydrogen is produced from processes with significantly reduced GHG emissions, such as steam methane reforming with integrated CO2 capture (CCS). Low-carbon synthetic fuels use either or both low-carbon hydrogen in combination with CO2 captured from the flues of industrial processes. Low-carbon biofuels use low-carbon hydrogen to hydrotreat sustainable biomass.


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