Power-to-X fuels open up new avenues for climate action and employment

Many regions of the world have potential for producing the new energy carrier, according to the Global PtX Potential Atlas.

New Global PtX Atlas on fuels based on solar and wind energy

Electricity-based fuels (power-to-X) and related technologies are essential for climate friendly air and maritime transport. Many regions of the world have great potential for the generation of these new kinds of fuel, in particular from green hydrogen. This is demonstrated by the Global PtX Atlas of the Fraunhofer Institute for Energy Economics and Energy System Technology presented today. This potential also has positive knock-on effects for the plant engineering industry in Germany, which is working on various PtX-processes. At a conference organised by the BMU, experts from business, science and civil society discussed how to organise a successful market ramp-up of e-fuels for air and maritime transport.

Federal Environment Minister Schulze commented: "PtX technologies are key to a climate-friendly air and maritime transport, as there are only very few aircraft and ships where transition to the direct use of electricity as the power supply is possible at all. Therefore, PtX fuels are the fuels of choice, provided they are generated with green hydrogen. The market ramp-up of PtX technologies will create many new jobs, as the development and production of PtX technologies and related installations requires the pooled know-how of Germany’s researchers, engineers and technical experts. At the same time, PtX technologies advance the sustainable development of our partners worldwide, as the demand for green hydrogen requires the massive expansion of renewable energies. Therefore, the Federal government wants to work with German businesses to strengthen cooperation with high-potential countries, to build the necessary capacities there and to establish cooperative supply chains."

Kurt Rohrig of the Fraunhofer Institute for Energy Economics and Energy System Technology stated: "For the Global PtX Atlas we identified all potential sites worldwide outside Europa, based on strict sustainability and socio-economic criteria covering social, political and economic aspects. In the final analysis, we identified a realistic long-term generation potential of about 69,100 terawatt hours yearly (TWh p.a.) for green hydrogen and 57,000 TWh p.a. for synthetic fuels (PtL). The limiting factor for exploiting this potential is not the availability of suitable land but the maximum extent and speed that is possible for establishing the additional renewable power generation capacities needed to supply the new hydrogen and PtL generating plants."

Uwe Lauber, CEO of MAN Energy Solutions and Chairman of the VDMA Working Group Power-to-X for Applications noted: "The German mechanical and plant engineering sector is leading internationally with regard to the development of PtX processes. These are technologies for the future, which will be ready for industrial scaling up in the coming years. Air and maritime transport, in particular, are sectors characterised by long-term investment cycles and therefore they need planning certainty above all. This includes robust technologies which take account of climate neutrality throughout the entire drive system. The Federal Government should work in Brussels to ensure that the financial market taxonomy also includes PtX fuels. Considerations focussing only on direct CO2 emissions at the tailpipe lead to incorrect total emission estimates."

Green hydrogen and electricity-based fuels and base materials, also referred to as PtX (power-to-X) products, will make a significant contribution to climate action and the decarbonisation of economies in the future. In addition to the direct use of hydrogen in energy-intensive industries with process-related emissions such as the steel industry, PtX products can be used as alternatives to fossil resources in the chemicals industry. This is also true for parts of the transport sector, where solutions for the direct use of electricity seem unlikely even in future (for instance air transport and long-distance maritime transport).

Many regions of the world are well suited to the production of green hydrogen and PtX products, as the Global PtX Atlas by Fraunhofer IEE shows. The atlas is the first survey of its kind worldwide. In their research project the scientists conclude that outside Europe 69,100 TWh of hydrogen and 57,000 TWh of electricity-based liquid fuels can be generated in the long term. In comparison: In 2050, global air transport will need a total of at least 6,700 TWh of electricity-based fuels, worldwide maritime transport 4,500 TWh. The atlas shows in detail the regions and countries where climate-friendly fuels can be produced, at which costs and in which volumes. For example, the largest suitable areas are to be found in the US and Australia, while the lowest costs for PtX generation will be possible in Chile and Argentina. The assessments of the technical and economic potential are based on comprehensive analyses, including available land and prevailing weather conditions. Researchers also took into account factors like local water availability, nature conservation aspects, investment certainty and transport costs. The Global PtX Atlas was compiled in the framework of the DeVKopSys project, funded by the Federal Environment Ministry.

The Federal Environment Ministry supports the further development and market ramp-up of PtX technologies in various ways. The PtX Lab Lausitz provides the scientific and technical foundation for an environmentally-friendly generation and use of PtX technologies and initiates cooperation projects between science and industry. In addition, a pilot plant will be built in the Lausitz to demonstrate first-hand what PtX technologies are about. The National Hydrogen Strategy provides 600 million euros which the BMU will use to promote the production of electricity-based fuels for air and maritime transport. The International PtX Hub Berlin aims to advance the sustainable production and use of climate-neutral base materials and fuels on the basis of green hydrogen in developing and emerging economies. The development of international networks and cross-sectoral knowledge transfer via the PtX Hub aims to leverage a sustainable hydrogen and PtX sector on a global scale. The hub was established by the Federal Environment Ministry. In addition, experts at the Competence Centre on climate change mitigation in energy-intensive industries (KEI) support industry’s transition to green hydrogen. As of the beginning of 2021, there are also funds available from the federal support programme for decarbonisation in industry for all those businesses which want to follow this path.

VDMA represents around 3,300 German and European companies active in the field of mechanical and plant engineering. This sector of industry represents innovation, export orientation and SMEs, employing around four million people in Europe, more than one million in Germany alone. The major players of a PTX value added chain meet on the VDMA Platform Power-to-X for Applications – renewable energy producers, plant construction companies and buyers of synthetic fuels.

04.08.2021 | Press release No. 192/21 | Climate
Joint press release of the Federal Environment Ministry, Fraunhofer IEE and VDMA.