Synthetic fuels can make a valuable contribution to decarbonize the German transport sector together with battery and fuel cell electric vehicles. A major challenge for this technology is the time-comsuming development of large-scale production facilities. The state agency e-mobil BW is supporting technological development in Baden-Württemberg and the expansion of synthetic fuel production capacities with various activities.
Synthetic fuels can be produced biogenically or electricity based. Both manufacturing processes provide renewable fuel types which differ chemically only to a limited extent from fossil fuels.
In electricity-based production, renewable electricity is converted via various process steps first into hydrogen and later into fuels such as gasoline, diesel, kerosene, methane, or "design fuels" (fuels adapted to the internal combustion engine). Currently, either Fischer-Tropsch synthesis or methanol synthesis are used for this purpose. Both types of processes create a product that can be used in the refinery process. The biogenic manufacturing process uses agricultural and industrial residues that do not compete for land with the feed and food industry.
The state agency e-mobil BW is working on synthetic fuels produced by electricity. This manufacturing process in particular holds potential for Baden-Württemberg as a business and science location, e.g. in the area of plant engineering for the supply of national and international production sites. In the long term, it is expected that synthetic fuels will be imported, too.
In order to contribute to the decarbonization of the transport sector, the most efficient technology should be selected for each mobility type and application. In particular, the use of synthetically produced fuels makes sense for ships or airplanes, as these do not have a sufficiently efficient substitution option yet.
Based on current knowledge, it is not expected that the propulsion systems of planes and ships can be completely converted to electric solutions. Therefore, renewable fuels are particularly suitable for large planes and ships on the way to climate-friendly mobility. In road traffic, synthetic fuels can help to defossilize existing vehicles with internal combustion engines.
Worldwide, the short-term development of sufficient production capacities for electricity-based synthetic fuels represents a major challenge. This opens up new economic potential for Baden-Württemberg, especially for process and environmental engineering. The experience from various existing flagship projects in the context of the Stratetic Dialogue for the Automotive Sector in Baden-Württemberg is already useful.