Expert: The production capacities of synthetic fuels are small, requiring massive investments

Expert: The production capacities of synthetic fuels are small, requiring massive investments

Expert: Production capacities of synthetic fuels are small, necessarily massive; investment

Oil refinery, oil extraction – illustrative photo.

Prague – The production of synthetic fuels, for which several European countries, including the Czech Republic, are now seeking to allow the future in cars, is currently at the beginning, worldwide capacities for their use in automobile transport are negligible . Costly investments in the production infrastructure will therefore be needed in the future. Securing basic raw materials for production can also be a complication. When asked by ČTK, this was stated by representatives of the University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague.

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Transport Minister Martin Kupka announced on Friday that the Czech Republic will not support a ban on the sale of new passenger cars with internal combustion engines in the European Union, unless it is possible to use synthetic fuels in cars. Germany and other EU states have already announced the same position.

“In a nutshell, we can say that synthetic fuels are the same or similar to fossil fuels, but they can also be prepared from non-fossil raw materials,” said Petr Zámostný, dean of the Faculty of Chemical Technologies. The head of the Institute of Petroleum Technology and Alternative Fuels, Pavel Šimáček, primarily emphasized that the conditions for the use of synthetic fuels in practice will largely depend on their eventual definition in European standards. Basically, according to him, these are fuels produced chemically from the synthesis of green hydrogen and carbon dioxide. According to him, however, it is technologically possible, for example, to use biomass or other products in production. “But it will depend on whether it meets the conditions that the states will set,” he pointed out.

According to Šimáček, the production and use of synthetic fuels is technically possible in practice, but the current production capacity is a problem. According to him, these are now almost negligible in the world. He recalled that at the end of last year, the German car manufacturer Porsche opened a factory for the production of synthetic fuels in Chile, where in the pilot phase it should produce approximately 130,000 liters of synthetic fuels per year, and the plan is to expand the capacity to approximately 550 million liters per year. However, this is still too little for larger use. For comparison, in Germany alone, passenger cars consume several tens of billions of liters of gasoline and diesel each year.

For the greater use of synthetic fuels, massive investments will be needed. At the same time, Zámostný pointed out that there can also be complications in the logistics of raw materials and in the energy intensity of production, when more energy needs to be consumed during production than the fuel contains. “But this also applies to electricity, so synthetic fuel can be a similar energy store, like a battery,” he said.

According to Šimáček, it will be possible to use the processes that refineries currently use for the production of fuels from fossil fuels. However, the refineries will need sources of green hydrogen and carbon dioxide, and according to Šimáček, it is not yet clear where these raw materials will come from. For example, they cannot yet imagine the use of carbon dioxide from the air. At the same time, the production will be many times more energy-demanding than with fossil sources.

According to Šimáček, the consumption of synthetic fuels in operation will not differ much from current petroleum fuels. “The consumption will be more or less similar,” he said. He did not want to estimate the price compared to gasoline and diesel.

In recent days, the EU Council postponed the final approval of the proposal, which would make it practically impossible to buy a new gasoline or diesel car from 2035. In addition to the Czech Republic, Germany and Italy, for example, insist on allowing synthetic fuels. Kupka also stated that both Prague and Berlin consider the current draft of the upcoming EU emission standard Euro 7 to be unrealistic and unacceptable. Poland and Hungary have also signaled opposition to the plan, which calls for carmakers to reach a zero-emissions target by 2035.