The Czech Republic cannot do without synthetic fuels in the future, experts warn

29. 09. 2023

If Europe still wants to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, it must look for alternatives to fossil fuels. However, the transition to renewable resources is not yet set in stone. The regional conference of the SUNERGY initiative, Transition Pathways Toward Sustainable Fossil-Free Fuels and Base Chemicals, outlined what options lie ahead.

According to conference organiser Antonín Vlček from the J. Heyrovský Institute of Physical Chemistry of the CAS, liquid synthetic fuels are crucial for the transition to fossil-free energy, especially in the context of the Czech Republic. “These are energy-rich chemical compounds, especially hydrocarbons, which can be produced with the aid of sunlight (solar fuels) or renewable electricity (e-fuels) from abundant raw materials such as carbon dioxide and water,” Vlček explains.

The Czech Academy of Sciences working toward sustainability
Synthetic fuels are also the focus of one of the research programmes of the CAS Strategy AV21 – Sustainable Energy. It was presented at the conference by Jiří Plešek, a member of the Academy Council of the CAS, who is in charge of the Strategy AV21. “The CAS institutes have been working on the issue of the future of energy for a long time. This is evidenced by two completed and one ongoing research programme.”

The programme connects institutes of the Czech Academy of Sciences and external partners. It covers key issues related to the transition to sustainable energy in the natural, technical, and social sciences. The exploration of hydrogen technologies or energy storage are also among the main topics.

It is the development of renewable energy storage technologies that should become a priority for European countries if they are aiming for carbon neutrality and energy independence. “We should consider synthetic fuels primarily in terms of their energy efficiency – they must produce more energy than we spend on their production,” Vlček and his colleague Jiří Dědeček explain.

The conference organiser, Antonín Vlček.

Energy infrastructure
Existing processes for fuel production do not meet the requirements for material and energy efficiency. The discovery and advancement of new approaches requires research and development cooperation at the international level. This is also highlighted by the European SUNERGY initiative, whose aim it is to accelerate innovation in the production of synthetic fuels and chemical compounds.

SUNER-C is a new EU-funded project that falls under SUNERGY and aims to create a pan-European network that will establish a research initiative to examine processes for the production of synthetic fuels (particularly using solar energy) and their introduction into the energy sector. In 2022, the J. Heyrovský Institute of Physical Chemistry of the CAS also joined SUNER-C as the only Czech institution.

Too soon to call the winner
Among other things, SUNER-C is putting together a strategic technological roadmap that is responding to the latest research, societal views, and developments in the political arena. According to Vlček, the principle of openness is key. “It is still too early to pick a ‘winner’ and decide which synthetic fuels and production processes are the most promising. The roadmap therefore emphasises the need to pursue research and development along multiple lines.”

Ivan Souček, Director of the Association of the Czech Chemical Industry, confirmed this stance. “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing resource efficiency, and safety in the chemical industry require new technological approaches. Integrating these parameters will be essential for the European Union to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.”

The conference, organised by the J. Heyrovský Institute of Physical Chemistry of the CAS together with the SUNERGY initiative and the Association of the Czech Chemical Industry on 14–15 September 2023, brought together over 70 attendees from the Czech Republic and other EU countries. Representatives from academia and industry met to discuss scientific, technical, economic, and political issues related to synthetic fuels. In addition to the Czech Academy of Sciences, the Czech participants included the University of Chemistry and Technology Prague and the Technology Centre Prague. The complete programme of the conference can be found here. An overview of what was discussed at the conference as reported by the J. Heyrovský Institute of Physical Chemistry of the CAS can be read here.

Prepared by: Zuzana Dupalová, Division of External Relations, CAO of the CAS, drawing on the press release by Antonín Vlček, J. Heyrovský Institute of Physical Chemistry of the CAS
Translated by: Tereza Novická, Division of External Relations, CAO of the CAS
Photo: Shutterstock; J. Heyrovský Institute of Physical Chemistry of the CAS

Licence Creative Commons The text is released for use under the Creative Commons licence.

The Czech Academy of Sciences (the CAS)

The mission of the CAS

The primary mission of the CAS is to conduct research in a broad spectrum of natural, technical and social sciences as well as humanities. This research aims to advance progress of scientific knowledge at the international level, considering, however, the specific needs of the Czech society and the national culture.

President of the CAS

Prof. Eva Zažímalová has started her second term of office in May 2021. She is a respected scientist, and a Professor of Plant Anatomy and Physiology.

She is also a part of GCSA of the EU.