The rise of “low carbon fossil fuels”: What are they and are they sustainable?

Low carbon fossil fuels, such as those produced from fossil fuels with CCS, waste plastics, or waste industrial gases, are being developed by an increasing number of companies in Europe, the US and beyond. These fuels are being touted as potential contributors to the reduction of GHG emissions in the transport sector.

However there has been little discussion on the sustainability of these fuels, nor is there an agreed methodology to assess their lifecycle carbon emissions. E4tech have recently carried out a study for the UK Department for Transport which describes these fuels, identifies sustainability impacts, proposes a framework for their assessment, and assesses broad categories of alternative fossil fuels against this framework.

A key conclusion of the report is that to understand the real world emissions of alternative fossil fuels described as “low carbon fossil fuels”, the lifecycle assessment needs to account for where the carbon would otherwise have been destined, had it not been used to make a new fuel product.

The full study is available here.

Find out more about our work in Sustainability & Resources here.

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