Europe’s E-Kerosene Drive: Potential, Pitfalls, and Pathways

Europe’s robust push towards e-kerosene, a green aviation fuel, has recently made headlines. However, despite many projects and promising production estimates, the final investment decisions for these initiatives remain uncertain. This article delves deeper into Europe’s e-kerosene ambitions, the challenges it faces, and the potential solutions, according to a recent study published by Transport and Environment (T&E).

The E-Kerosene Landscape

Europe is home to a burgeoning e-kerosene industry, with as many as 45 projects aiming to manufacture this cleaner alternative to traditional jet fuel. These initiatives, spread across the European Economic Area (EEA), could feasibly fulfil the European Union’s (EU’s) Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) law. The SAFs law, known as ReFuelEU, mandates that all jet fuel suppliers in the EU blend a specific proportion of e-kerosene into the jet fuel they supply to EU airports. This proportion starts at 1.2% in 2030 and gradually rises to 35% by 2050.

The ambitious projects aim to produce about 1.7 million tonnes (Mt) of e-kerosene by 2030, significantly surpassing the 600 kilotonnes (kt) stipulated by the ReFuelEU law. This amount of green fuel could theoretically power 70,000 transatlantic flights, saving a total of 4.6 Mt of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The Industry Players

The T&E study identifies 25 industrial projects and 20 smaller pilot projects committed to producing synthetic fuels for aviation. However, none of these major e-kerosene projects have made their final investment decisions (FID), leaving their future uncertain.

Despite this, the countries leading the e-kerosene drive, such as Norway, Germany, and France, have shown significant progress. For instance, Norway, with a total production capacity of 420,000 tonnes of e-kerosene by 2030, leads the pack. Two Norwegian firms, Nordic Electrofuel and Norsk e-Fuel, aim to corner nearly a quarter of the European market.

Germany and France are not far behind, with their own ambitious plans. France has pledged €200 million to boost innovative SAF projects, thus catching up with Germany in terms of production capacity. Both countries could manufacture around 300,000 tonnes of e-kerosene by 2030.

The Challenges

The progress is promising, but the road to e-kerosene success is far from smooth. The industry faces significant challenges, such as the limited availability of green hydrogen and sustainable carbon sources. Convincing airlines to sign purchase agreements for e-kerosene is also a significant hurdle.

“We see proposals for e-kerosene plants springing up around Europe. But we need to move from paper to reality and ensure that the e-kerosene projects truly materialise, or else the law will be nothing but empty words.” – Camille Mutrelle, SAF expert at T&E

E-kerosene offers a scalable solution to the aviation industry’s carbon footprint problem. Unlike biomass feedstocks used for biofuels, e-kerosene utilises an abundant source of renewable energy: renewable electricity. If produced using additional renewable electricity and carbon dioxide captured from the atmosphere, the combustion of e-kerosene can be close to CO2 neutral.

However, to realise this potential, Europe needs to overcome the aforementioned challenges. This will require a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including national governments, industry players, and airlines.

“Europe needs all the e-kerosene it can produce in order to convert dreams of more sustainable flights into reality.” – Camille Mutrelle, SAF expert at T&E

In conclusion, Europe’s e-kerosene ambition is a step in the right direction towards decarbonising the aviation industry. However, the journey is fraught with challenges that need to be addressed promptly and effectively. The future of sustainable aviation in Europe hinges on turning these ambitious plans into reality.