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What are E-Fuels, and Why Do We Need Them?

E-Fuels, also known as “electrofuels” or “synthetic fuels” are produced from renewable energy sources or electricity that has been decarbonized. Learn about the different types of E-fuels, how they’re produced, and why they're important in the fight against climate change 

a photo of liquid E-fuels

The Situation: 

Fossil fuels have been the age-old solution for meeting global energy demands. Specifically in hard to abate industries, coal, oil and natural gas have been the default choice for transportation and industrial processes. However, fossil fuels are depleting, and they are a large contributor of carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions. CO₂ and other greenhouses gasses into the atmosphere. To help mitigate the effects of fossil fuel combustion, there has been a flood of research, innovation and interest in cleaner energy sources. 


One alternative source of energy are E-fuels, also called synthetic fuels or electrofuels. E-fuels are made by taking renewable energy and converting it into chemical energy. From there, that chemical energy can be used as a substitute for fossil fuels. There are a variety of different types of E-fuels, but all of them either take a liquid or gaseous form. One liquid common type of E-fuels is E-methanol which comes in a liquid form. E-methanol serves as a synthetic crude oil and can be used as a transportation fuel or feedstock. A common gaseous E-fuel is electrolytic hydrogen. This kind of E-fuel is produced by splitting water into hydrogen (H₂) and oxygen (O₂). Once the hydrogen is separated from the oxygen, it can either be used immediately as a fuel or further processed into other e-fuels. 

 E-fuel Production: E-Fuel Production

The production of E-fuels requires multiple steps and works best in tandem with other technology such as Direct Air Carbon Capture (DACC) or the GenHydro reactor system. The first step in producing an e-fuel is producing hydrogen (H₂) through the electrolysis of renewable energy. The hydrogen is then combined with carbon dioxide in order to create a carbon neutral feedstock. Then, using a series of catalytic conversions, the hydrogen and carbon dioxide are converted into a hydrocarbon fuel. This "E-fuel" is comparable to natural gas, gasoline, or diesel.

The future of E-fuels and climate change:

E-fuels have substantial potential in helping decarbonize hard to abate sectors like industrial processing, transportation, and even heating. One way that E-fuels could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and climate change is by serving as a replacement for conventional gasoline. There have been a wide variety of articles that discuss the potential for E-fuels to replace gas for cars on roads, especially in Europe. E-fuels are also beneficial for providing usage for surplus renewable energy. During periods of excess renewable energy generation, E-fuel production provides a way to efficiently utilize overflow energy, minimizing waste. 

The GenHydro Take: 

E-fuels should be seen as a complementary solution that works collectively with other climate change prevention measures as opposed to a complete replacement for current renewables. Certain industries and applications don't lend well to electrification, so we must view the role of E-fuels in decarbonization as just a piece of the puzzle in the fight against climate change. E-fuels have the biggest potential to make a difference in high energy, fossil-fuel based processes, such as aviation, manufacturing or shipping. Due to E-fuels carbon-neutral nature, they offer a promising solution to reducing emissions in hard to abate industries. By embracing E-fuels as part of the multi-faceted fight against climate change, we can combat rising carbon emissions across various sectors all over the world. 


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Engie. E-fuels, what are they?.

What are Efuels?. eFuel






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