21 Jan 2021, 14:22
Sören Amelang

Pilot project in Germany's largest refinery to produce synthetic fuels

Germany's largest refinery is set to add synthetic fuels to its existing mineral oil-based product portfolio, reports Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). The regional government of Baden-Wuerttemberg announced a pilot project worth 500 million euros to make fuels on the basis of renewable electricity or biomass and waste. The production target is 50,000 tonnes of synthetic fuel per year, compared to 5 million tonnes of petrol alone that the refinery makes. The site in the city of Karlsruhe belongs to oil companies Phillips, Esso, Rosneft, and Shell, and currently uses mineral oil that is transported from the Italian port of Trieste via pipeline.

A project company under the leadership of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is to raise the necessary funds from the transport ministry, the participating machine and plant manufacturers, and car manufacturers and mineral oil companies, report Bernd Freytag and Oliver Schmale. The project partners hope to gain competitive advantages from the pilot plant. The goal must be to develop the plant technology in Germany so that it can be exported, KIT's project manager Olaf Toedter told the newspaper. "If we don't do it, others will." The plant will also help to determine the cost of synthetic fuels, as current estimates vary widely between 0.7 and 4 euros, he added.

The regional government of Baden-Wuerttemberg is putting great hopes into synthetic fuels to lower especially the transport sector's carbon footprint. "They are to be used in particular in aircraft, heavy goods transport and shipping," said the state transport ministry in a press release. FAZ writes the government of the state - where carmakers Daimler and Porsche as well as many suppliers are based - also wants to use synthetic fuels as an additional option for passenger cars. Germany's environment ministry is mainly betting on electric cars to lower road transport emissions, but the country's powerful car industry association VDA insists that synthetic fuels will also have to play an important role. Carmaker Porsche said last year it will produce synthetic fuels. Many mobility experts, environmentalists, and Europe's largest carmaker Volkswagen argue that synthetic fuels should not be used in road transport, because the conversion steps make them inherently more inefficient than using electricity directly.

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