Products and Use

A dominant share of the products processed by the fuel manufacturing industry is used in the transport sector. Concawe contributes to making sure that these products are fit for use and studies their impact over their life cycle in the following areas:

  • Road fuels

For the last decades, two objectives at the European level have been of importance for the development of road transport technology, on the one hand minimizing pollutant emissions and on the other reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The recent progress made in reducing pollutant emissions together with the introduction of “real driving emissions” (RDE) assessments, along with the foreseen new CO2 targets triggered by the European Green Deal, have more than ever shifted the development efforts towards GHG emissions reduction.

Reducing pollutant emissions and improving air quality in the most efficient way requires a sound understanding of the complex relationships between engines, after-treatment systems, vehicles emissions and fuels composition. Concawe is an active contributor to this area of research through in-depth studies on mainstream and emerging powertrain technologies, as well as on the impact of fuel composition on vehicle performance and emissions.

Reducing GHG emissions from road transport leads to using alternative fuel components that have lower life-cycle emissions than their fossil counterpart, such as ethanol, ethers, fatty acid methyl esters, paraffinic diesel from residues and waste transformation, etc. These components have different physical-chemical properties and may (or may not) have an impact on the durability of the vehicle, from the fuel tank to the exhaust line and through the fuel injection system and the combustion chamber. Incorporating alternative components into the mainstream fuel pools may also require adapting the corresponding fuels specifications as enablers for the decarbonisation of the road transport sector. These questions trigger research activities that are at the core of Concawe’s mission.

This research provides a strong basis for ensuring that road fuel specifications continue to provide ‘fit for purpose’ fuels for the on-road fleet. It spans gasoline and gasoline-like fuels (E5, E10, E10+, E85), diesel and diesel-like fuels (B7, B10, B20, B30, B100, paraffinic diesel) as well as gaseous fuels (LPG, CNG, LNG). Concawe actively contributes to the specification-setting process as a liaison organisation to the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN).

Concawe recognizes the importance of contributing to broad-based European research related to transport fuels and actively participates in research and development consortia with other industry partners. This includes the European Road Transport Research Advisory Council (ERTRAC) as well as participation in several EU-funded programmes under Horizon 2020.

  • Marine fuels

In the last decade, the research activity on maritime fuels has focused on reducing their sulphur content. Per IMO MARPOL Annex VI requirements, the sulphur content in marine fuels dropped from 3.5% (Heavy Fuel Oil – HFO) to 0.5% (Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil – VLSFO) maximum; in the Emission Control Areas (ECA) located at the vicinity of the coasts, the sulphur limit is now at 0.1% maximum (Marine Diesel Oil – MDO). There are various ways to achieve these targets: HFO combined with exhaust gas scrubbing is an option to remove SOx emissions as is a switch to Liquefied Natural Gas, which is a naturally low sulphur fuel; a majority of the shipping industry switched to VLSFO and MDO. Switching fuels generated new interests over the stability of these fuels and their rheology which are active fields of research at Concawe.

Furthermore, the maritime sector, one of the so-called “hard-to-abate” sectors, is difficult to electrify due to the low energy density of batteries and consequently has to keep using liquid (or liquefied) fuels. To meet the IMO ambition and the European Green Deal requirements, these liquid (or liquefied) fuels need to progressively reduce their greenhouse gas emissions over their life cycle. In this context, different options are still open for the maritime sector as the technology used provides great flexibility in terms of adapting new ships to alternative energy carriers, and vice-versa. The decarbonisation options currently considered span renewable liquid fuels such as fatty acid methyl esters, paraffinic diesel, methanol, pyrolysis oil from various qualities and origins, or renewable liquefied “gaseous” fuels such as methane, ammonia or hydrogen. To narrow down the number of options, a transversal approach is necessary, encompassing the production pathways of low/zero carbon fuels (feedstock availability, whether biomass or renewable electricity is considered, process yield, technical maturity, etc.) to their use (quality of the product, fit for use, engine efficiency, pollutant emissions, etc.) and through safety and handling considerations (toxicity, risks of spills, impact on the environment, consequences for the crew, consequences for the cargo, etc.) The broad range of competencies available at Concawe along with its capacity to partner with the relevant stakeholders makes it a relevant player in this research area.

  • Aviation fuels

A common “saying” in the aviation sector goes: “There are three golden rules to follow when implementing a new feature in an aircraft: 1 – Safety; 2 – Safety; 3 – Safety”. Fuels are no exception to these golden rules, and the safety of aviation fuels is at the core of Concawe’s concerns when dealing with aviation fuels.

As aviation is also a “hard-to-abate” sector, reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of aviation fuels is a pressing topic. To do so, fuel manufacturers must go through a long, costly and complex process to verify that their production pathway, thoroughly reviewed step by step from the feedstock used to the product obtained and through the conversion process used, complies with the industry requirements – and above all with safety. Accelerating this validation process is a major stake in speeding up the decarbonisation of the aviation sector today. Depending on the validation process used, the obtained product, called Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) can be incorporated with conventional Jet Fuels at a ratio of up to 10% or up to 50%. In the future, it will be required to go beyond these incorporation rates, and up to 100% to actually achieve the expected decarbonisation of the sector.

Aviation is also responsible for non-CO2 emissions. A first type of these emissions falls into the category of ground pollutant emissions such as NOx, particulate matter, SO2 or VOCs in the area neighbouring the airports. Fuel composition may have an impact on these emissions, and Concawe can work hand in hand with the aviation industry to target their reduction. Aviation is also responsible of contrails formation, which has an impact on global warming, and the fuel composition may have an impact regarding their formation and lifetime. Together with research and industry partners, Concawe is active in this field of research.

  • CO2 emissions and Life-Cycle Assessments (LCA)

From a global warming perspective, it does not matter whether the GHG emissions arise from the tailpipe, the production of the energy carriers or the production of the vehicles and their infrastructure. It is the overall addition of all these emissions that eventually has an impact on climate change. Therefore, when developing alternative energy pathways for the transport sector, it is important to assess them from a life-cycle perspective to evaluate their true benefit and avoid any risk that emissions are passed on to another sector or area (sometimes also called “carbon leakage”).

Concawe has, since 2001, contributed to “well-to-wheel” (WTW) assessments of the impact of future automotive fuels and vehicles on GHG emissions and energy balances. Detailed studies on the WTW impacts of different biofuels, e-fuels and other alternatives have been published jointly by Concawe, the European Council on Automotive R&D (EUCAR), and the EU Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and are considered as the reference on the topic. This work is regularly complemented and updated, now reaching the 5th version of their well-to-tank (WTT), tank-to-wheel (TTW) and WTW assessments by a JEC (JRC-EUCAR-Concawe) consortium.

Concawe developed an online tool ( to compare life-cycle emissions of different electrification options for passenger cars combined with various energy carriers (fuels and electricity) depending on their use case (trip distance, country of use, configuration of the vehicle, charging frequency). As this kind of tool facilitates an open debate in the scientific community on the identification of the relevant scenarios and options, it is likely that Concawe will keep on developing similar tools in the future, e.g. for heavy-duty vehicles applications.

Last but not least, Concawe recently developed some systemic research, that goes beyond the life-cycle assessments: if LCA is the appropriate tool to evaluate a back-to-back comparison of two options (e.g. GHG emissions of a battery electric vehicle vs. an internal combustion engine vehicle), it does not say anything about the optimal pathways to be followed to decarbonize the transport sector as fast as possible in real-world conditions. This optimization requires considering the boundaries of the global system in terms of the availability of biomass, renewable electricity, batteries, recharging infrastructure, scale-up potential, etc., and finding an optimal combination of options that minimises the GHG emissions within the boundary of the system.

  • Electrification and Batteries

Electrification has a big role to play in the decarbonisation of the transport sector. Its benefits are based on two main pillars: first, the high efficiency of electric powertrains, significantly higher than that of internal combustion engines, which is limited by the laws of thermodynamics; second, the capacity of the power sector to quickly decarbonize its energy production, pushed by a switch from coal to nuclear and gas in the past decades, and more recently pushed by the uptake of intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind turbines and photovoltaic panels.

While Concawe is involved neither in the power sector development nor in the production of batteries, it is important to understand the challenges of the electrification of transport to propose the relevant decarbonizing options where they can have an impact. For instance, there is a broad consensus that electrification is not a relevant option in the maritime and aviation sectors (although still possible for some niche applications), and therefore low-carbon fuels need to be developed. In the road transport sector, for which electrification is a mainstream decarbonisation option, there might be bottlenecks in the supply of batteries to Europe, for instance, due to the availability of raw materials. Concawe monitors the supply of batteries in/to Europe and proposes electrification roadmaps to make optimal use of the available batteries.

For more information, send an email here for your question related to fuels, and there for your questions related to LCA and batteries.

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