Climate neutrality in 2050 is an EU objective that canâ€™t be missed and the fuel industry is committed to contribute to its achievement. Liquid fuels will increasingly be replaced by electromobility but for some uses we will still need liquids. FuelsEurope therefore presented in June 2020 its Clean Fuels for All strategy describing a pathway that could supply by 2050 up 150 Million tons of oil equivalent of low-carbon liquid fuels, mainly advanced biofuels produced from lignocellulosic feedstock (agriculture and forestry residues, waste) and eFuels produced from renewables. This volume is about two-fifths of todayâ€™s liquids demand.
This pathway, consistent with the Commission Clean Planet for All 1.5 Tech scenario, could supply the required amount of fuels for aviation, maritime and a share of road transport, mainly for heavy-duty vehicles and a small portion of cars and vans.
To address challenges and questions on our strategy, we have now complemented the pathway with studies and research to assess feedstock availability, fuelsâ€™ production economics, additional liquid fuels scenarios, affordability and access to mobility.
Biomass feedstock availability has often been raised as a justification to minimize the role of low-carbon liquid fuels. While studies by the Commission (2017) and the Joint Research Centre (2019) concluded that feedstock availability is not a challenge for increased biofuels production, Concawe, the refining industryâ€™s scientific and technical body, commissioned a study that will eventually more deeply inform on a science base the debate. The study by Imperial College London Consultants, Sustainable biomass availability in the EU, to 2050 shows that the total EU potential sustainable biomass availability (agriculture, forestry and biowastes) is more than sufficient to supply feedstock for bio-based liquid fuels to aviation, maritime and a share of road transport.
Imperial College London Consultants assessed the availability of sustainable feedstock in three different scenarios (low, medium and high mobilization of feedstock) and found that even after allocation of biomass feedstock to bio-based products and power, industry and residential sectors according to the Commissionâ€™s estimate, the total share of biomass available for transport in 2050 is estimated sufficient to support the production up to 135 Mtoe of biofuels. Taking into account biomass imports to the EU, then the production capacity could reach up to 175 Mtoe.
The study demonstrates that the potential is there and could even be higher as the biomass potential availability estimated in this study is based on very conservative assumptions. Furthermore, additional availability to the one estimated by this study can be expected from other sustainable biomass feedstocks not yet included in RED II Annex IX that have not been taken into consideration at all in the above calculations.
Sustainability and biodiversity
The biomass sustainability criteria applied by experts from Imperial College London Consultants are those defined by the Commission under RED II, and traditional biofuel crops (first generation) are not included.
Moreover, biodiversity has also been carefully considered in the study. Based on two key principles, conservation of land with significant biodiversity values and land management without negative effects on biodiversity, the study concludes that the available feedstock will have no negative effect on biodiversity. There could even be a further extension of the range of environmentally suitable biomass, and to explore this additional potential option Concawe has asked another independent organization, the Fraunhofer Institute, in collaboration with Imperial College London Consultants, to evaluate the biodiversity impact of the land specifically used for biomass provision. Concawe will publish the results when completed.
A solution for ICE vehicles on the road and a smooth transition
The EUâ€™s objective for 2030 of 30 million battery electric vehicles (BEVs) on the roads of the Union implies that, with a total of around 250 million internal combustion engines (ICEs) currently on the road, there will still be 220 million ICEs requiring liquid fuels in 2030. Electrification will require time for vehicle fleet turnover and distribution infrastructures deployment, and not all European drivers will have access to these new vehicles. Low-carbon liquid fuels are, during the transition to electric powered vehicles, the most efficient way to cut emissions from vehicles with an internal combustion engine and allow the optimization of the buildup of infrastructures for electrical charging and hydrogen.Â
In the same way, heavy-duty vehicles such as trucks and buses, which have an average fleet age of 15 to 20 years, could also benefit from an accelerated reduction of their CO2 emissions by switching to low-carbon fuels, without the technical constraints related to the new powertrains and the longer time required for fleet turnover.
A no-regret option and a means to address mobility poverty
Policy incentives, favorable taxation schemes and other supporting measures will be critical to support the scaling up of these fuels and progressively reduce their cost, through the creation of economies of scale and through the repayment of the capital cost. Over time, the reduction of demand for liquid fuels from road transport will free up growing volume for aviation and maritime, at an affordable price.
Moreover, a very recent study, by studio Gear Up to be published soon, shows that some countries or regions have limited means to incentivize the purchase of electric vehicles, and most citizens are dependent on the second-hand market for their next car.Â Also, even with subsidies, that same study highlights that in a number of EU countries new (battery-electric) vehicles are largely out of reach for a share of EU citizens. These users should also be offered the opportunity to reduce their CO2 footprint by increased used of low-carbon liquid fuels in their ICE vehicles.
In conclusion, the potential availability of sustainable biomass is more than sufficient to allow advanced and waste-based biofuel to contribute, together with e-fuels, to the decarbonization of EU transport in line with the 2050 climate neutrality objective. Together with electrification and hydrogen, low-carbon liquid fuels will enable EU transport to reach its 2050 objective without leaving anybody behind.Â Â