Discover more about synthetic fuels…
Synthetic fuels have emerged as a promising sustainable energy solution contender. These fuels crafted through advanced chemical processes, offer an intriguing blend of reliability, reduced emissions, and versatility. Distinct from traditional fossil fuels and alternative energy sources, synthetic fuels harness the power of innovation to meet our growing energy demands. Read on to unravel the science, potential, and environmental implications of these cutting-edge fuels.
Your synthetic fuel questions answered.
What are synthetic fuels?
Synthetic fuels are liquid fuels produced from sources other than natural crude oil. They are manufactured through chemical processes from various feedstocks, including natural gas, coal, biomass, or carbon dioxide and water. A synthetic fuel can also be classed as a renewable fuel if the hydrogen is produced from a renewable source and any carbon source used is from a renewable or unavoidable carbon stream
The main processes and products of synthetic fuels include:
These synthetic fuels are produced by converting carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), and hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbons using syngas (synthesis gas) obtained from gasification. Industrial processes like the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) method are typically employed.
- Renewable sources for GtL include syngas from biomass gasification (which can also fall under Biomass-to-Liquid, or BtL), direct air capture, and industrial waste gases.
- Fossil fuel sources for GtL involve natural gas, gasified coal, or recycled carbon fuel.
This is a variant of GtL where the CO2 is sourced from gasifying biomass. Despite using biomass, BtL doesn’t classify as a biofuel due to its synthetic production process.
This type of fuel is made using renewable electricity, combined with carbon sources. The process involves the same synthesis methods as GtL and BtL, but with an emphasis on renewable energy inputs.
A specific subset within synthetic fuels, e-fuels are made using green hydrogen. This hydrogen is produced using electricity for water electrolysis which is then combined with the captured carbon dioxide in a process to produce liquid fuels.
What’s the difference between biofuels and synthetic fuels?
Biofuels are made from biological materials or biomass, whereas Synthetic fuels can be made from various sources such as, natural gas, coal, biomass, or even carbon dioxide and water. Synthetic fuels are also created through more complex chemical processes like the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis by altering their chemical structure to turn into liquids.
Biofuels are often considered carbon-neutral because the CO2 they emit when burned is roughly equal to the CO2 absorbed by the plants during their growth. Synthetic fuels on the other hand can have a varying environmental impact. When produced from fossil resources (like coal or natural gas), they can be carbon-intensive and energy intensive. However, if made using renewable energy sources and carbon capture technologies, they can be much cleaner and sustainable.
Both biofuels and synthetic fuels can play crucial roles in the transition towards more sustainable future, but their effectiveness and sustainability depend on a multitude of different factors, including the sourcing of materials, production methods, and the end-use applications.
How do synthetic fuels compare in price to traditional fuels?
The cost of synthetic fuels can vary widely based on production techniques, feedstock prices, and market demand. Historically, synthetic fuels have been more expensive than conventional fuels, but advances in technology and economies of scale can change this dynamic over time.
What is SNG?
Synthetic Natural Gas (SNG) is a fuel gas that can be produced from fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum coke, or from renewable sources like biomass. Its main component is methane, the same as natural gas found in conventional gas fields.
What are the benefits of synthetic fuels?
Synthetic fuels can offer several benefits including reduced greenhouse gas emissions, cleaner burning properties than conventional fuels, and the potential to utilize local resources, reducing dependence on foreign fossil-based oil.
How can synthetic fuels help in the transition to a cleaner energy future?
Synthetic fuels can act as a bridge by providing cleaner-burning alternatives to traditional fuels while sustainable technologies like electric vehicles and renewable energy continue to develop and scale.
Can my car run on synthetic fuel?
How is synthetic fuel produced?
Synthetic fuels are typically produced through chemical processes like the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, methanol synthesis, or the direct conversion of methane. The production method often depends on the feedstock being used.
The main processes of synthetic fuels include:
Using processes like the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) these synthetic fuels are produced by converting carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), and hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbons using syngas (synthesis gas) obtained from gasification.
This is a variant of GtL where the CO2 is sourced from gasifying biomass.
The process involves the same synthesis methods as GtL and BtL, but with an emphasis on renewable energy inputs.
E-fuels use water electrolysis to split water (H2O) into its constituent elements, hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is then combined with the captured carbon dioxide in a process (such as the Fischer-Tropsch process) to synthesize hydrocarbons. This process produces liquid fuels that can include gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.