TO-SYN-FUEL project produces sustainable fuels to decarbonise road vehicles
4 min read

TO-SYN-FUEL project produces sustainable fuels to decarbonise road vehicles

The European Green Deal is a top priority for climate, energy and mobility. The target is for Europe to become climate-neutral by 2050, protecting humans, animals and ecosystems, but also creating economic growth across all demographics. All these measures are important for the support of biofuels, bioenergy and renewable fuels, under sustainable conditions and with sustainable feedstocks. In addition, the Fit for 55 package was adopted in the second part of 2021 by the European Commission to implement the 2030 Climate target plan with the 55% greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

Renewable energies have major opportunities to replace or substitute those from fossil origin in the power sector, heating & cooling sector, and also in transportation, industry and agriculture. Notably, advanced renewable fuels, including synthetic and sustainable advanced biofuels, are needed to provide carbon-neutral solutions for transport and energy-intensive industrial sectors.
The expected impacts from supporting renewable energy and renewable fuel technologies are the availability of disruptive technologies in 2050, with reduced costs and improved efficiency, de-risking all the technologies for their commercial uptake, a better integration in energy consuming sectors, a reinforced European scientific basis and the European exploitation potential of these technologies, an enhanced sustainability of value chains, and a more effective market uptake.

To support the growing market of advanced and renewable fuels, reaching competitiveness is needed through R&I to improve costs, performance and sustainability, so that they can immediately serve sectors like transport and aviation. Investments are needed into technology improvement, feedstock diversification, market uptake, coordinated R&I funding, and international cooperation.

The H2020 To-Syn-Fuel project, that ends in September 2022 after more than 5 successful years, is demonstrating a sustainable process that can transform waste biomass, such as dried sewage sludge into high-quality renewable liquid fuels and green hydrogen.

Biogenic residues, H2-rich syngas, biochar and bio-oil are processed by the assembled demonstrator working plant with the Thermo-Catalytic Reforming (TCR®) implemented in a new process integrated with hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) and pressure swing adsorption (PSA) technologies.

The final phase of the To-Syn-Fuel project is the integrated operation of the systems and production of liquid fuels and green hydrogen from sewage sludge. Long-term testing campaigns with TCR® have shown a very satisfying performance. Within over 1,500 operation hours more than 500 tonnes of dried sewage sludge have been converted into 50,000+ litres of TCR®-oil. The yield and the quality of the products achieved are within expectations.
Concerning the overall efficiency of the plant, it is known from pre-tests of small-scale experiments that up to 90% of the energy can be transferred from the feedstock to the products, and that around 10% of energy from feedstock is needed as heating energy.
Current project activities comprise of the distillation of the upgraded TCR®-oil to produce gasoline and diesel fractions.

"This project is a showcase for future sustainable investment across Europe, since a broad range of feedstocks can be processed: not only sewage sludge, but also other biogenic residues, like biowaste, digestate from anaerobic digestion, etc. This demonstration is really a first-of-its-kind perspective", says Dr.-Ing. Robert Daschner, Head of the Renewable Energy Department at Fraunhofer UMSICHT and Project Management Officer.

As To-Syn-Fuel is designed to set the benchmark for future sustainable development within Europe, by providing a valuable example of renewable fuels and green hydrogen production to the rest of the world, while successfully addressing energy, environmental, economic, and social needs, stakeholders' surveys and promotional initiatives to engage industry are being deployed.

The consortium is working hard on communication at both national and international levels. One of the most significant is a promotional Car Tour planned between 15-28th September 2022. A car, fuelled with To-Syn-Fuel diesel, will stop at locations around Europe, including filming at an autodrom with rally legend Walter Rohl, interviews at Bayern Oil and Fraunhofer HQ, and a premium showcase presentation at this year's European Sustainable Energy Week 2022. EUSEW is taking place on 26-30 September to promote the technology and the importance of biofuels in the clean energy solutions mix for greener transport for now and for in the medium-to-long term.

Pilot demonstration plant for the To-Syn-Fuel project in Markt Hohenburg, district of Amberg-Sulzbach, Germany.Credit: Fraunhofer UMSICHT.
Promotional Car Tour planned this September 2022: a car, fuelled with To-Syn-Fuel diesel.Credits: WRG Europe.

It is possible to follow the project development and news through the website,, and the twitter account, @tosynfuel.

About the project

This press release is about To-Syn-Fuel project. To-Syn-Fuel is a Horizon 2020-funded project, under the programme for biofuels and renewable fuels, coordinated by Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology (Fraunhofer UMSICHT) in Germany. The project began in May 2017 with a financial volume of 14.5-million-euro funding.

The consortium with 11 partner organisations has brought together some of the leading researchers, industrial technology providers and renewable energy experts from across Europe, in a collaborative, committed and dedicated research effort to deliver the overarching ambition. Partners include: Engie Services Netherlands NV, HyGear Technology and Services BV (The Netherlands), Fraunhofer UMSICHT, Verfahrenstechnik Schwedt GmbH, Martech GmbH (Germany), Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna, Eni SpA, ETA–Florence Renewable Energies (Italy), University of Birmingham, WRG Europe Ltd (UK) and LEITAT (Spain). The project has a total duration of 65 months from May 2017 to September 2022 and is funded by the European Union under the Horizon 2020 programme.

Contact Point Fraunhofer UMSICHT: Dr.-Ing. Robert Daschner,

Contact Point ETA-Florence: Ing. Stefano Capaccioli,

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