What does the use of synthetic fuels in industry depend on?

Elsevier Journal, Smart Energy 3 (2021) 100042, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.segy.2021.100042

Especially, the electrification of the industry sector is highly complex and challenging, mainly due to process-specific requirements. In this context, there are several industrial processes, where the direct and indirect use of electricity is subject to technical restrictions. In order to achieve the national climate goals, the fossil energy consumption remaining after the implementation of efficiency and sufficiency measures, as well as direct electrification has to be substituted through hydrogen and synthetic gaseous, liquid and solid hydrocarbons.

The paper „Synthetic fuels in the German industry sector depending on climate protection level“ focuses on the question of which factors influence the use of synthetic fuels in industry. The main overriding factor is the level of climate protection ambition. Other important aspects are alternative GHG reduction measures such as electrification or efficiency measures. In regard to the long reinvestment cycles in industry, the age of the industrial facilities plays a decisive role in the deployment of synthetic fuels.

Fig. 1 contains initially the factors influencing the use of synthetic fuels and the according qualitative effect strengths. On the left side of the figure model parameters, that tend to reduce the consumption of synthetic fuels, are listed. The right side of the figure depicts model parameters that have the opposite effect. The arrows describe qualitatively the intensity with which each parameter effect the utilization of synthetic fuels. The parameters are further divided into uni- and bilateral effects. For example, alternative production routes can both decrease and increase synfuels consumption. For instance, on the one hand, hydrogen steel production leads to an increased synthetic fuel consumption. The alternative process route of the electric steam cracker, on the other hand, decreases the synthetic fuels consumption, as the steam is generated electrically instead with synfuels.


Factors influencing the use of synthetic fuels and according qualitative effect strengths

The role of synthetic fuels in industrial transformation paths is also investigated and analyzed by combining individual greenhouse gas abatement measures within the Sector Model Industry. Sector Model Industry is an energy consumption model that performs discrete, deterministic energy and emission dynamic calculations with a time horizon up to 2050 at macroeconomic level. The results indicate that the use of synthetic fuels can be expected with a high level of climate protection. The industrial CO2 target in the model makes it necessary to replace CO2 -intensive fossil with renewable fuels. The model uses a total of 163 TWh of synthetic fuels in the climate protection scenario and thus achieves an 88% decrease in CO2 emissions in 2050 compared to 1990. This means that the GHG abatement achieved in industry is within the range of the targeted CO2 mitigation of the overall system in Germany of between 80 and 95% in 2050 compared to 1990.

The findings in the research can contribute to the cost-efficient use of synthetic fuels in industry and thus serve as a basis for political decision making. Moreover, the results may have a practical relevance, not only serving as a solid comparison base for the outcome of other studies, but also as input data for further simulation of energy system transformation paths.

The paper can be made available for scientific purposes on written request.

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