Sustain Energy Fuels. 2022 Aug 29;6(20):4749-4764. doi: 10.1039/d2se00757f. eCollection 2022 Oct 11.
The decarbonisation of the transportation sector is key to meeting the climate goals. Whilst the electrification of road passenger transportation is proving to be a viable low-carbon solution in many contexts, a viable pathway towards a decarbonised aviation sector remains opaque. In this context, so-called e-fuels produced via the combination of H2O, CO2 and renewable energy may have promise owing to their compatibility with existing infrastructure. Most studies on e-fuels focus only on the economic dimension, neglecting their environmental performance and associated costs. Here, we present a techno-economic evaluation and cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment of Fischer-Tropsch (FT) e-jet fuels produced at different locations in Europe from a range of CO2 and green H2 sources to comprehensively assess their potential in aviation, explicitly accounting for externalities. Our results show that e-jet fuel is at present much more expensive (at least 5.4-fold) than its fossil analogue, even when externalities are included (i.e., at least 2.3 fold the current cost of fossil jet fuel). Furthermore, e-jet fuels could exacerbate the damage to human health and ecosystems despite showing lower carbon footprint and resource scarcity impacts than their fossil counterparts. Overall, e-jet fuel could become more economically and environmentally attractive by reducing the cost and impact of CO2 and green H2 and, more specifically, the electricity used in their production processes. In this regard, the production plant’s location emerges as a critical factor due to the costs associated with balancing the intermittency of site-specific renewables.