Europe’s oil majors are investing eight times more in biofuels than in hydrogen, according to a new study on behalf of the Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment (T&E).
Around 75% of the European refining sector’s €39bn ($42.23bn) of planned investments in alternative fuels up to 2030 will go towards increasing biofuels production, states the report. Between €2bn and €3bn will be invested in new hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) plants, doubling production capacity of this advanced biofuel to ten megatonnes by 2030. This is four times higher than what can be sustainably sourced in the EU, according to T&E’s analysis. It warns of mass imports of “dubious” used cooking oil as feedstock from abroad.
“Oil producers are promoting hydrogen as their big bet for the future, but in reality their investments in green hydrogen are pitiful,” Geert Decock, electricity and energy manager at T&E, said in a statement. “Instead they are focusing their new refining capacity on biofuels which cannot sustainably supply the world’s transport needs. This is not an industry pushing the boundaries of clean technology.”
Shell, BP, Total, ENI and Repsol are investing around €6.5bn in blue hydrogen (hydrogen produced from natural gas and supported by carbon capture and storage); double what they are spending on producing green hydrogen (produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable electricity) and e-fuels like e-methane and e-kerosene (produced with renewable electricity, water and CO2).
“Where oil producers are investing in hydrogen, most is going towards replacing dirty grey hydrogen operations with blue hydrogen, which still uses polluting fossil gas,” said Decock. “Instead of wasting their time on easy, short-term solutions, oil refiners should switch to producing green hydrogen and e-fuels for ships and planes today.”
T&E concludes with a list of policy recommendations to move Europe's oil majors beyond biofuels and blue hydrogen.