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Oxxynova plant in Steyerberg: a place of hope for petrol station operators

Photo: Oxxynova

The first large-scale German production plant for e-gasoline is to be built in Lower Saxony. According to SPIEGEL information, an alliance of medium-sized companies is planning an industrial plant that will be able to produce more than 70 million liters of synthetic fuels per year. This corresponds to the consumption of almost 100,000 cars. Production is scheduled to start at the end of 2026.

Steyerberg (Nienburg/Weser district) in Lower Saxony was chosen as the location. There is a chemical plant of the company Oxxynova, which used to be Europe's only manufacturer of the polyester precursor DMT, but was switched to stand-by mode at the end of 2022 with reference to the energy price crisis. A consortium called eFuel Steyerberg GmbH, based in Hoya, is already registered in the commercial register.

Behind the project is an alliance of 16 medium-sized companies that are active in the mineral oil trade or filling station business, for example, and some of which are jointly pursuing other projects for e-fuels. Their goal is to create an additional path to climate-neutral mobility in addition to electromobility.

Further hurdles to the electric alternative

"I am very pleased that we have once again managed to unite a consortium of medium-sized companies," said Managing Director and co-partner Lorenz Kiene of the Lühmann Group from Hoya, which owns the independent petrol station chain Classic.

E-fuels can be produced from hydrogen and CO₂ using renewable electricity, so in the best case, the greenhouse gas emanating from the tailpipe has previously been removed from the atmosphere. Federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) has negotiated an exception to the EU's goal that all new cars should be emission-free from 2035. Exactly how this exception is supposed to work has not yet been clarified.

So far, the new fuel is not available at petrol stations. An EU regulation allowing this is expected in spring 2024. Then the next hurdle comes with the production of large quantities. German gasoline consumption has been declining for years, but still amounts to more than 20 billion liters per year.

Big plans – for ships and planes

So far, there are only small e-fuel production facilities, such as a research facility at the Technical University of Bergakademie Freiberg (Saxony), where 2026,380 liters of synthetic gasoline are to be produced for investigations and tests by 000. The technology tested in Freiberg is also planned for Steyerberg.

Internationally, some larger e-fuel projects are planned, but are more aimed at fuel for ships or aircraft. For example, the Chilean company HIF Global, which inaugurated a first small pilot plant for e-gasoline in 2022 with the participation of Porsche and Siemens, is now concentrating on an e-methanol plant in Texas. From 2027, around 1.8 billion liters per year are to be produced there, mainly for ship propulsion.

In Leuna (Saxony-Anhalt), the federal government is funding the construction of a large research facility for up to twelve million litres of e-kerosene per year. If the project proves successful, it could continue on an industrial scale.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Monday at the climate conference in Dubai that a decision would be made on a billion-euro investment in a green methanol plant with a capacity of almost 2025 million liters by 500.

Methanol is also needed in Steyerberg as a feedstock for gasoline synthesis. For example, it can be generated on the basis of electricity or with the help of substances of biological origin.