New atlas shows global power-to-X potential for the first time

Many regions of the world offer good conditions for the production of green hydrogen as well as regeneratively generated synthetic fuels. The first global power-to-X atlas, which has now been presented by the Fraunhofer Institute for Energy Economics and Energy System Technology IEE, shows how large the respective potentials are in detail. The evaluation of the technical and economic potential is based on extensive analyses of, for example, land availability and weather conditions. The researchers also took into account factors such as local water availability, nature conservation, investment security and transport costs. The PtX Atlas will be available online from 1 June 2021.

Great hopes rest on synthetic fuels produced with green hydrogen: They are to replace fossil energies in industry, transport and other areas. Like many other countries, Germany attaches great importance to these PtX energy sources in its climate policy.

But where could the CO2-neutral fuels be produced sustainably, at what cost and in what quantity – and what are the costs of exporting them? This is now presented in detail in the world’s first PtX atlas by Fraunhofer IEE. In their study, the experts focused on locations outside the European Economic Area. The PtX atlas was created as part of the DeVKopSys project funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment. The aim of the project is to scientifically investigate development paths in the transport sector that are compatible with the climate policy goals of the Federal Government in feedback with other sectors of the energy system.

“Our atlas shows that in many regions of the world, large quantities of PtX energy carriers can be produced regeneratively and exported in the long term – although there are definitely considerable differences from location to location,” says Norman Gerhardt, Head of Energy Economics and Systems Analysis at Fraunhofer IEE. However, he qualifies: “Despite the great potential, green hydrogen and green synthetic fuels can only ever be supplementary. Increasing energy efficiency and direct use of renewable electricity must always be a priority.”

“With the atlas, interested parties can, among other things, call up the areas that could be considered for PtX, the full load hours and possible generation quantities that can be achieved there, the respective production costs for the various PtX energy sources, as well as the costs for their transport to Europe,” explains Maximilian Pfennig from Fraunhofer IEE, who developed the PtX atlas.

Sufficient quantities for remaining needs

In their study, the researchers come to the conclusion that in the long term a total of around 109,000 terawatt hours of liquid green hydrogen and 87,000 terawatt hours of synthetic fuels (power to liquids, or PtL) could be produced outside Europe. Realistically, however, only part of this total potential can be tapped – among other things, because in some places there is insufficient investment security or because the necessary infrastructure is lacking.

If these factors are taken into account, however, the convertible potential is still 69,100 terawatt hours of hydrogen or 57,000 terawatt hours of PtL. By way of comparison, a total of at least 6,700 terawatt hours of PtL will be required for global aviation in 2050, and 4,500 terawatt hours for global shipping.

If the available quantities are extrapolated to Germany according to the current share of the world population, 770 terawatt hours of hydrogen or 640 terawatt hours of PtL are available. “That’s enough to meet the remaining fuel and heating needs – provided energy efficiency and direct electricity use are absolute priorities at all times,” Gerhardt says.

Transport is an important cost factor

When calculating the economic potential of the individual locations, the researchers took into account not only the LCOE of renewable energies and the efficiency of the PtX processes, but also, among other things, peripheral, storage and transport costs.

The scientists come to the conclusion that locations with good conditions for wind energy and, if possible, in combination with photovoltaics, have the lowest generation costs. In contrast, photovoltaic-based PtX generation costs are higher in locations with lower wind energy resources. However, for hydrogen in particular, depending on the location, the costs of transport to Germany are a decisive factor and partly overcompensate for the differences in location.

The atlas also shows that it is often more cost-effective to produce fuels such as PtL for the European market directly where the green hydrogen is produced instead of in Europe on the basis of imported hydrogen. These synthesis products are significantly cheaper to transport andCO2 can be recovered for further processing at these sites by means of air separation. In order to transport hydrogen over long distances, it has to be liquefied, which consumes a lot of energy and thus incurs costs. In addition, there are evaporation losses of the liquefied gases during transport.

North African countries could supply hydrogen

Which countries and regions are suitable export partners for Europe must be considered on a case-by-case basis. Countries with high generation potential and favourable socio-economic conditions, such as the USA and Australia, could supply large quantities of PtX energy carriers. However, domestic demand is likely to be strong, especially in the USA, which reduces the export potential. Due to the long transport distances, it would also not make economic sense to export green hydrogen from these countries to Europe.

Countries closer to Europe, such as Egypt or Libya, would in principle also be able to supply large volumes of PtX – and also green gaseous hydrogen, since the transport distances are comparatively short. However, socio-economic conditions are worse in these countries. The investment risks are therefore higher, which also increases the financing costs. This reduces the likelihood of large-scale PtX projects being implemented there.


The PtX Atlas will be released to all on the project website on 1 June 2021.

On June 2, 2021, 10 – 11 a.m., scientists and the interested public will have the opportunity to be introduced to the atlas and its functions in a live hands-on session and to go into deep dive with the developers and ask questions directly. To the registration.

Background paper on the Power-to-X Atlas