Fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal are non-renewable resources that account for around three quarters of the energy consumption in the EU. They are used for the generation of electricity and heat, the powering of transport, and as materials in certain industrial processes. While fossil fuels are an important component in the European energy mix, the European Commission is committed to making the transition towards a more sustainable and carbon-neutral economy.
The EU is the world's second largest producer of petroleum products, with an oil refining capacity of 16% of the world total. Refineries process crude oils into finished products by breaking them down into their components. These are then selectively reconfigured into new products such as fuels and lubricants for automotive, ship and aircraft engines. To discuss regulatory proposals affecting oil refining, the European Commission organises the EU refining forum twice a year.
The Commission regularly conducts refining fitness checks, to evaluate how ten pieces of the most relevant EU legislation drawn from the fields of environment, climate action, taxation and energy affect the petroleum refining sector.
Coal regions in transition
While the Commission is committed to a long-term vision of a climate neutral economy, coal and gas remain key components in the energy mix of several regions in the EU countries, and conventional thermal generation from fossil fuels such as coal and gas accounts for over half of the EU's electricity needs. To ensure that no region is left behind in the clean energy transition, the Commission has established the EU platform on coal regions in transition to advance the economic and technological transformation of coal mining regions.
Moreover, because a significant amount of power plants and industrial processes will continue to use fossil fuels in the medium term, this platform will also look at ways of improving air quality and reducing emissions. For example, the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) can help in removing CO2 from the atmosphere by capturing it from emissions and storing it in suitable underground geological formations.
Liquefied natural gas
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is natural gas, predominantly methane, which has been converted to liquid form for ease of storage or transport. As a liquid, LNG takes up nearly 600 times less volume than gas at standard atmospheric pressure, making it possible to transport gas over long distances without the use of pipelines as well as allowing for gas-to-gas competition and establishing a global and liquid gas market.
Shale gas and other unconventional hydrocarbons
Unconventional hydrocarbons such as shale gas could contribute to the EU's security of supply and competitiveness. However, there are public concerns over their extraction. The EU is working to ensure that the extraction of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing is done with proper environmental and climate safeguards.