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DfT announces new RTFO regulations for H2

The UK has announced some important changes to the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) regulations which came into force on 15th April. These will have key implications for the uptake of both renewable hydrogen and of sustainable transport fuels derived from renewable hydrogen. The new RTFO regulations will incentivise the production of innovative ‘development’ fuels such as renewable hydrogen. In addition, the regulations bring renewable aviation fuels and renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RFNBO) into the updated RTFO scheme.

These updated RTFO regulations will require fuel companies to substantially double by 2020 the amount of renewable fuel they supply by 2020, and to triple the amount by 2032. According to the Department for Transport these changes to the RTFO will ensure the transport fuel mix is at least 12.4 percent biofuel by 2032, but with caps on the permitted amount of crop-based biofuels. An initial cap of 4 percent crop-based biofuels is set for 2018, and this cap is reduced annually from 2021 to reach 3 percent in 2026 and 2 percent in 2032. To compensate for the restriction on levels of crop-based biofuels the new RTFO regulations also sets a target for the addition of ‘Development Fuels’ fuels that starts at 0.1% in 2019 and increases to 2.8% by 2032. A 'Development Fuel' is a fuel made from specified sustainable wastes or residues, or a renewable fuel of non-biological renewable origin (RFNBO) that is also of a specified fuel type.

Renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RFNBOs) are renewable liquid or gaseous transport fuels for which none of the energy content of the fuel comes from biological sources. These fuels are considered renewable where the energy content of the fuel comes from renewable energy sources but excluding bioenergy sources. The simplest RFNBO is renewable hydrogen (for example from wind or solar power electrolysis) that is directly used in transport applications: either in an internal combustion engine or a fuel cell electric vehicle. A range of other renewable transport fuels can also be generated by reacting this RFNBO hydrogen precursor with CO2, to produce RFNBO products such as methane, methanol, ethanol, di-methyl ether, petrol, kerosene and diesel.

If a RFNBO is produced from CO2, the carbon dioxide can come from waste fossil sources (for example, waste flue gases from coal and natural gas power generation or similar industrial combustion processes), from biological sources (e.g. alcohol fermentation or anaerobic digestion) or from atmospheric or naturally-occurring/geothermal sources. The CO2 must not be deliberately produced for the purpose of producing a RFNBO.

These updated RTFO regulations should provide a significant stimulus for the increased production of renewable hydrogen as a clean transport fuel, as well as clear incentives for the production of renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RFNBOs) using renewable hydrogen feedstocks.


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