Press Release

E-fuels for planes: with 45 projects, is the EU on track to meet its targets?

January 24, 2024

Norway, Germany and France surge ahead to produce e-fuels for planes, but uncertainties in the market persist, a new study by green group Transport & Environment shows.

A total of 45 e-kerosene projects could see the light in the EEA, enabling sufficient supply of green fuels to meet the EU’s law on sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs). But without final investment decisions, these projects are at risk as well as the targets stipulated by the law. A new study by NGO Transport & Environment counts 25 industrial projects and 20 smaller pilot projects that pledge to produce synthetic fuels for aviation.

The 25 industrial projects identified in the study have the ambition to produce 1.7 Mt of e-kerosene by 2030[1]. This would go well beyond the 600 kt mandated by the EU’s law on sustainable aviation fuels, called ReFuelEU[2]. The promised 1.7 Mt of fuel could power an equivalent of 70,000 transatlantic flights[3], and save a total of 4.6 million tonnes of CO2[4].

But for the moment, no major e-kerosene project has achieved final investment decision (FID). So whilst the amount of e-kerosene planned seems to indicate that the EU is on the right track to meet the law, the materialization of these projects is still very uncertain, T&E warns. Although the ReFuelEU law has created long-term predictable demand and de-risked investments into e-kerosene,  project developers still have to overcome many hurdles, such as low availability of green hydrogen and sustainable carbon sources, or the difficulty to convince airlines to sign purchase agreements.

Camille Mutrelle, SAF expert at T&E explains: “The EU could meet its 2030 target to power planes with e-fuels. We see proposals for e-kerosene plants springing up like mushrooms around Europe. But the road is still long before we actually see e-kerosene in our planes. 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.”

The e-kerosene projects analysed in the study are based in only ten EEA countries. Norway leads the pack with a total production capacity amounting to 420,000 tons of e-kerosene in 2030. Two Norwegian companies, Nordic Electrofuel and Norsk e-Fuel, have plans to capture nearly a quarter of the European market, the study finds.

Germany and France also have ambitious plans to ramp up domestic production of e-kerosene. While Germany has its own target for the use of e-kerosene at airports (0.5% in 2026 and 2% in 2030), France has pledged €200 million to support innovative SAF projects and has now caught up with Germany for production capacity. Both countries could produce around 300,000 tons of e-kerosene in 2030.

“Our e-kerosene map reveals a two-speed Europe: while countries like Norway, Germany and France are pulling ahead in the e-kerosene race with some promising projects on the horizon, other countries like Spain, Italy and Poland are lagging behind and not making use of their potential. Ramping up the production of e-fuels for aviation should be a priority of national aviation decarbonisation strategies. Europe needs all the e-kerosene it can produce in order to convert dreams of more sustainable flights into reality”, Camille Mutrelle concludes.

In order to decarbonize, the aviation sector requires an alternative to fossil kerosene which can be scaled up to meet the fuel demands of the sector. Unlike the biomass feedstocks used for biofuels, e-kerosene uses a more scalable 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.

[1] The 20 smaller plants have not been accounted for in terms of production capacity as they are demonstration projects pledging to produce only a few hundreds of tons each.

[2]ReFuelEU Aviation makes it compulsory for all jet fuel suppliers to blend a certain proportion of e-kerosene into the jet fuel they deliver to EU airports, starting at 1.2% in 2030 and progressively rising to 35% in 2050.

[3] Considering a 50% e-kerosene blend.

[4] The emissions savings are calculated using 85% of GHG savings for e-kerosene compared to fossil kerosene.

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