Boost for Finnish e-fuel technology

9 February 2021

Commercialisation of the electrofuel (e-fuel) production process using sustainable electricity and sequestered carbon dioxide received a boost in January from €3.3 million in funding from Business Finland. 

Co-ordinated by VTT, the E-fuel research project is connected with the Neste Veturi Ecosystem. The development work is also augmented by a group of companies of which some have their own parallel Business Finland funded projects. Altogether, €6 million is invested in the development of the production of fuels in Finland.

The market for synthetic fuels is expected to grow to millions of tons by 2030 in Europe alone. The market for electrolysis technology, which is a key to the production of synthetic fuels, is expected to grow more than 20-fold in the coming five years. The production of e-fuels is often referred to by the names power-to-liquids (PtL) or power-to-X (PtX).

The two-year E-fuel research project aims at developing the integration of hydrogen production through high-temperature electrolysis using a solid oxide electrolyser cell (SOEC) with carbon dioxide sequestration and Fischer-Tropsch fuel synthesis, aiming at a breakthrough for Finnish technology on the growing world market for synthetic fuels.

The E-fuel project aims at an efficiency improvement by 10-15 percentage points compared to the efficiency of current technologies in the production of e-fuels by utilising innovative high-temperature electrolysis technology and the developed heat integration of electrolysis, carbon dioxide sequestration and fuel synthesis. The potential for high-temperature electrolysis in the production of e-fuels is also improved by the possibility to produce a mixed gas of hydrogen and carbon monoxide required in Fischer-Tropsch synthesis by feeding carbon dioxide and water vapour directly into an electrolyser operating at a temperature of about 700°C.

The aim of the project is to boost both the synthesis concept of e-fuels and the commercial readiness of high-temperature electrolysers closer to electrolyser technologies based on low temperatures.

Company partners that have their own research projects include Andritz, Convion, Elcogen and Neste. Neste's project is linked with the Veturi Ecosystem for new solutions for reducing the use of crude oil. Neste's globally expertise in the production and distribution of liquid fuels based on renewable raw materials offers a commercial path for solutions that can be developed in the E-fuel project.

“The E-fuel project is the first collaboration project linked with Neste's Veturi research programme. In this programme, Neste is developing new, globally scalable solutions to reduce the use of crude oil in the production of transport fuels and chemicals, and thereby to mitigate climate change. Commercialising these technologies requires long-term research as well as the creation of new value chains together with partners”, says Outi Ervasti, vp, Renewable Hydrogen and PtX at Neste.

“In the E-fuel project, several Finnish companies will collaborate to further develop the technologies needed for synthetic fuel production. This project supports us in reaching our goals of becoming carbon neutral in our production by 2035 and in developing an offering of synthetic fuels based on captured CO2 and renewable hydrogen”, Ervasti states. Of the project partners, Convion is developing industrial-scale high temperature electrolysis in its own parallel project. 

VTT's E-fuel is a research project funded jointly by Business Finland, VTT, and the participating company partners, with the goal of establishing readiness for scaling up the technology being developed to a production scale level after the project. The project is public, and a part of the Green E2 ecosystem funded by Business Finland and administered by Clic Innovation, and continuation for VTT's power-to-X research, for example the BECCU project launched in 2020. E-fuel project is also linked into Green Electrification 2035-Veturi programme initiated by ABB.

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