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January 11, 2024

These projects prove partnership is key to scaling net zero technology

With the current carbon emission curve, the world is headed for a global warming temperature rise of 2.9°C above pre-industrial levels. The window to carve a pathway for 1.5°C is closing, but it can be kept open with urgent and decisive action from governments and industry.

The technology to enable net zero already exists. The challenge lies in de-risking the enormous financial investments that are needed and making the business case for new technologies. Annual global investments in energy transition technologies must reach over $5 trillion to be on track for 1.5°C. In 2022, investments were at $1.3 trillion.

Reaching net zero carbon emissions requires massive investments to build out renewable energy and new technology, such as Power-to-X technologies — which use renewable energy to produce green hydrogen and its derivates — at scale to produce alternative energy sources for industries that cannot be electrified directly.

It has taken decades to mature production of renewable energy, and there is a long way yet to go. Now, an almost entirely new hydrogen industry and economy needs to be built rapidly. Scaling the technologies needed to transform the energy system is crucial to mitigate climate change, and building out this hydrogen industry at the necessary pace calls for new ways of working together across the value chain.

Power-to-X value chain partnerships
Policy and frameworks that provide incentives for industry are central to developing and scaling new technology and enabling net zero. It is existentially important that we facilitate these tectonic shifts and transform the global energy system.

In addition to public-private partnerships, industry partnerships and consortiums across the value chain can address the supply and demand side simultaneously, accelerating innovation, final investment decisions, scaling of technology and implementation. All of this will boost decarbonization.

Case studies in cooperation for decarbonization
There are already examples of companies partnering up across the value chain to develop Power-to-X projects. One of them is FlagshipOne, Europe’s largest green fuel project for shipping so far. Ørsted acquired full ownership of the project in 2022, which was previously co-owned by Liquid Wind and Ørsted.

This Power-to-X facility will capture biogenic carbon dioxide (CCU) and combine it with hydrogen made from renewable electricity and water to produce eMethanol, a versatile, liquid fuel that is carbon neutral and easy to store, transport and use. For decarbonizing shipping, which is fundamental to the global economy but responsible for releasing roughly 1 billion tons of CO2 every year — 2-3% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions — this project is key. The industry has pledged to reach net zero by 2050, and the implementation of low-carbon fuel alternatives, such as eMethanol and ammonia, are vital to this commitment.

The eMethanol market could rise to 500 million tons by 2050, from less than 0.2 million tons produced annually today, mostly as bio-methanol.

The FlagshipOne facility is expected to be in operation in 2025, combining technology from Siemens, Topsoe and Alfa Laval to produce approximately 50,000 tons eMethanol per year, enough to fuel one large ocean-going vessel or several ferries.

Another such example is Green Fuels for Denmark, a partnership between Danish companies across the Power-to-X value chain focusing on developing groundbreaking hydrogen and green fuel production facilities.

Topsoe, Ørsted, Copenhagen Airport, A.P. Møller-Mærsk, DSV, DFDS, SAS and knowledge partner COWI combined represent the technology, supply and demand side of green fuels and have gathered in a consortium to create an ambitious eFuels hub.

Producing industrial-scale green hydrogen and eFuels for long-distance transportation on the road, across the sea and in the air is the goal. Fully realized post 2030, the eFuels hub will have a total capacity of 1.3 Gigawatt, with the potential to save up to 1,000,000 tons of CO2 over the first ten years of operation.

Through an integrated Power-to-X logistic and value chain, Green Fuels for Denmark will provide a flexible route to decarbonize shipping and aviation in Europe. With a full sector-coupling approach, renewable energy production, biogenic point-source carbon capture and utilization (CCU) and synthesis of eFuels will be combined with district heating, wastewater treatment and sustainable fuel use in difficult-to-electrify and energy-intensive transport sectors.

The project will build offshore wind capacity to power the electrolysis process, key to hydrogen production. The resulting green hydrogen can then be used directly as fuel for road transportation or synthesized into eMethanol to fuel shipping vessels and further into eKerosene for aviation.

Why value chain partnerships for success
The pathway to net zero is complex. It requires not only technological innovation but also new ways for how industries and governments collaborate.

Value chain partnerships, as demonstrated by the Green Fuels for Denmark and FlagshipOne projects, can drive the energy transition forward. By bringing together the technology, supply and demand sides of the equation, these partnerships are helping to de-risk investments, accelerating the scaling of technology and enabling decarbonization.


This article was originally published 11 January 2024 on World Economic Forum. See it here.

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