Review of electrofuel feasibility - cost and environmental impact

Electrofuels, fuels produced from electricity, water, and carbon or nitrogen, are of interest assubstitutes for fossil fuels in all energy and chemical sectors. This paper focuses on electrofuels for transportation, where some can be used in existing vehicle/vessel/aircraft fleets and fueling infrastructure.

The aim of this study is to review publications on electrofuels and summarize costs and environmental performance. A special case, denoted as bio-electrofuels, involves hydrogen supplementing existing biomethane production (e.g. anaerobic digestion) to generate additional or different fuels. We use costs, identified in the literature, to calculate harmonized production costs for a range of electrofuels and bio-electrofuels.

Results from the harmonized calculations show that bio-electrofuels generally have lower costs than electrofuels produced using captured carbon. Lowest costs are found for liquefied bio-electro-methane, bio-electro-methanol, and bio-electro-dimethyl ether. The highest cost is for electro-jet fuel. All analyzed fuels have the potential for long-term production costs in the range 90–160 € per MWh. Dominant factors impacting production costs are electrolyzer and electricity costs, the latter connected to capacity factors (CFs) and cost for hydrogen storage. Electrofuel production costs also depend on regional conditions for renewable electricity generation, which are analyzed in sensitivity analyses usingcorresponding CFs in four European regions.

Results show a production cost range forelectro-methanol of 76–118 € per MWh depending on scenario and region assuming an electrolyzer CAPEX of 300–450 € per kWelec and CFs of 45%–65%. Lowest production costs are found in regions with good conditions for renewable electricity, such as Ireland and western Spain. The choice of system boundary has a large impact on the environmental assessments. The literature is not consistent regarding the environmental impact from different CO2 sources. The literature, however, points to the fact that renewable energy sources are required to achieve low global warming impact over the electrofuel life cycle.

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