Car Makers and fuel suppliers unite to promote synthetic fuels in Europe
By Mike Hanlon
March 7, 2006
March 8, 2006 The Alliance for Synthetic Fuels in Europe (ASFE) was launched yesterday. At a conference held in Brussels and attended by European Commissioners Günter Verheugen and Andris Piebalgs and Austrian Minister for Environment Josef Pröll, leading automotive manufacturers and fuel supply companies layed out their common vision of sustainable mobility in Europe. Founding members of the Alliance of Synthetic Fuels in Europe (ASFE) - DaimlerChrysler, Renault, Royal Dutch Shell, Sasol Chevron and the Volkswagen group – addressed the strategic role of synthetic fuels in tackling today’s energy and environmental challenges and reducing the environmental impact of road transport through improved energy efficiency and the use of cleaner fuels.
“Synthetic fuels can deliver a cleaner fuel future. Synthetic fuels can meet concerns about security and diversity of supply. Synthetic fuels can deliver real emissions reductions today and this will improve even more as the technology develops,” the conference was told by George Couvaras, chief executive officer, Sasol Chevron.
Royal Dutch Shell plc executive director, Rob Routs told the conference: “Synthetic fuels made from natural gas and biomass can also reduce petroleum dependency. They provide a cost effective, realistic development path between today’s fuels and longer term renewable energy.”
Franz-Josef Paefgen, general power of attorney, Volkswagen AG set out the objectives of the ASFE: “The objectives of ASFE are to promote synthetic fuels and support a range of activities in the field of sustainable mobility including research, projects demonstrating the benefits of synthetic fuels including vehicle trials, cooperation with governments and promotion of public awareness.”
Thomas Weber, member of the Board of Management of DaimlerChrysler AG, responsible for Group Research & Mercedes Car Group Development, assessed the objectives of the ASFE in the light of wider European policy objectives: “Synthetic fuels can make a real contribution in many of Europe’s policy areas - combating climate change, reducing energy consumption, diversifying energy supplies, ensuring security of energy supply and improving air quality.”
Luc-Alexandre Menard, senior vice president, public affairs, Renault concluded in outlining the challenge facing Europe and the ASFE: “Synthetic fuels are now a reality and Europe must work together to deliver the cleaner transport future that these fuels make possible.”
Through a series of keynote talks and a panel discussion, ASFE members stated their shared commitment to reducing the environmental impact of road transport through improved engine technology and cleaner fuels. ASFE members showed how synthetic fuels can contribute to improved security of supply and to a sustainable transport future.
The conference heard how, working together, the car manufacturers and fuel suppliers are making a new generation of engines, with further improvements in energy efficiency and reduced exhaust emissions using synthetic fuels.
About synthetic fuels
Synthetic fuels are a new generation of near zero sulphur and aromatics transport fuels made with the Fischer Tropsch process from natural gas (GTL), coal (CTL) or biomass (BTL). Of the three processes, GTL is the most commercially advanced and offers a practical alternative fuel today. A number of plants are being built or planned and product availability will increase from 2006 onwards. BTL needs further R&D; investment but has the potential to use domestic resources in Europe.
Greenhouse gas emissions associated with synthetic fuels derived from natural gas are comparable with transport fuels made from crude oil, while those produced from biomass can contribute to greenhouse gas reduction of up to 90%. As synthetic fuels can be used neat or blended in existing diesel engines, distribution and refueling infrastructure, they are the most cost effective solution to reducing petroleum dependency. Synthetic fuels can provide significant local air quality improvement by reducing tailpipe emissions (particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons).