e-Fuels are crucial to sustainable heavy transport

e-Ammonia is a solution for deep sea shipping

Synthetic fuels produced from electricity, or e-fuels, will play an important role in reducing CO2 emissions from long-distance truck transport, aviation and shipping. For deep sea shipping, synthetic ammonia is also an important option. Even though green hydrogen is needed to produce e-fuels, its applicability as a fuel in heavy transport is limited. This is demonstrated by a recently completed study by VoltaChem, TNO and SmartPort, in which Enviu through the THRUST program participated, of over a year, into the most promising e-fuels for heavy transport applications and their deployment.

“The transport sector is responsible for 23% of global CO2 emissions. Almost three-quarters of this comes from road transport. Aviation and shipping account for about 10% of the transport sector’s emissions each. In order to meet the climate goals, these emissions will have to be reduced by 95% by 2050. Shipping, aviation and heavy road transport are currently lagging far behind when it comes to contributing to sustainable mobility. They must therefore become drastically greener and e-fuels offer a way out as long as stakeholders from the entire value chain will take the necessary steps and increase production and investments in the related infrastructure”, says Richard Smokers of TNO, one of the authors of the whitepaper.

E-fuels different for truck transport, shipping and aviation

The study looked into the possibilities for green hydrogen, and the e-fuels e-methanol, e-diesel, e-ammonia, e-LNG and e-kerosine from a user perspective. These e-fuels, like green hydrogen, hardly produce CO2 emissions because they are produced with electricity from renewable sources and circular carbon dioxide. The whitepaper shows that for truck transport green hydrogen can only be used for shorter and medium distances. For long-distance truck transport e-fuels are the most attractive options because of their high energy density requiring smaller, cheaper tanks. Hydrogen is also likely to be more expensive to use than synthetic methanol, diesel and LNG due to the high costs of refuelling infrastructure and vehicles. E-ammonia is currently considered too dangerous for road transport. For shipping, hydrogen is only an interesting option for short distances and ferries. E-ammonia is particularly interesting for deep sea shipping (sea transport over long distances). Synthetic methanol, diesel and LNG are interesting options for both inland and sea shipping. For aviation, e-kerosene appears to be the only feasible option. All fuels deviating significantly from kerosene are unacceptable due to a too high loss of passenger and load capacity and because of the need to invest in completely new aircraft and engine designs.

Large-scale production and import of renewable energy

In order to produce the quantities of e-fuels needed for heavy transport in the Netherlands, more than 2000 PJ of electricity and quite a lot of space are required, according to the whitepaper. Martijn de Graaff of VoltaChem explains: “If these activities are concentrated in Rotterdam, the factories will need 60% of the surface area of Maasvlakte 2 and part of the Dutch North Sea for the sustainable energy supply. In view of these requirements and because it will be very expensive to adapt the current infrastructure it will probably become necessary to import green hydrogen or synthetic fuels. This could have a major impact on current fuel production locations such as the refinery cluster in Rotterdam and its associated petrochemical industry. Although 2050 may seem a long way off, we’d better start preparing for it.”

Action needed throughout value chain

In order to scale up the deployment of e-fuels in such a way that climate goals are realized, steps need to be taken at a global, EU, national and regional level and throughout the entire value chain.

In collaboration with key stakeholders in the value chain THRUST is taking action in the maritime sector by developing cross-sectoral projects and business cases for both the production of e-fuels and  preparation of vessels to start sailing on these fuels.

Download the whitepaper E-Fuels: towards a more sustainable future for truck transport, shipping and aviation

This whitepaper is the result of a partnership project between stakeholders from the logistics sector, industry and knowledge institutes. The following partners took part: Deltalinqs Climate Program, DMT Environmental Technology, EICB, SmartPort, Enviu, Port of Rotterdam Authority, NLR, MKC, Port of Amsterdam and VIV.

Scroll to Top


Get the latest THRUST news direct to your inbox.


We’d love to hear from you. Fill in the form below or give Maarten a call on +31 6 19 31 10 15

Want to join our newsletter? Click here to sign up