Future of Downstream

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Future of the sector as the UK transitions to net zero by 2050

The sector is able to deliver the fuel our economy and society needs while increasing their low carbon content to meet the UK’s net zero goals.

Demand for road transport fuels has declined over recent years due to improvements in vehicle efficiency and the increasing use of hybrid and electric vehicles. Over the same period, the biofuel content of petrol and diesel has also increased, leading to a further decline in demand for crude oil derived petrol and diesel. These trends are set to continue under Government transport decarbonisation policies.

Petrol and diesel engines will, however, continue to be a large part of the vehicle fleet, as will hybrids, beyond the 2035 ban on new vehicles which are not zero emission at the tailpipe. Reducing emissions of such vehicles can deliver greenhouse gas savings early and support the development of low carbon fuels that will be required in the much longer-term, for example for aviation and Heavy Goods Vehicles.

UK offers advantages in terms of transition to net zero which could make it a world leader as we move to net zero, with good geology for Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS), proximity to the European market and strong import/export infrastructure, and transferable workforce expertise from both upstream and downstream oil sectors to support key technologies such as hydrogen, carbon capture and low carbon fuels.​

The downstream oil sector will need to consider how it can contribute to decarbonisation goals, whilst providing security, reliability and affordable products to wider society. To do this we need a clear vision for the future of our industry. 

The series of reports below do just that as well as considering in depth the multiple technologies available to reduce the emissions of our industry as well as its products.

Use the links on the right to learn more about the future of the UK's downstream oil sector and the decarbonisation potential or use the links below:

2020 Transition, Transformation, and Innovation

2021 Future of Mobility

2022 Future Skills for the Downstream Sector

2024 Policies for the Fuels Sector

Downstream Case Studies

Fuels Industry UK member companies are involved in a range of projects outlining the how the downstream sector does its part towards net zero emissions, whilst supporting jobs, skills and growth across our economy.

Industrial Clusters

The 'cluster concept' seeks opportunities between adjacent industries for integrated processes, operations and business models. In particular, clusters offer an opportunity for businesses to improve energy efficiency, produce low-carbon products and technologies and decarbonise their operations to a greater extent than could be achieved alone.


Refineries are the largest producers and consumers of hydrogen in the world and UK-based refiners have been working safely with hydrogen for over 60 years. With the infrastructure, skills and expertise that has been developed, Fuels Industry UK believes the downstream industry can be a significant contributor to the emerging hydrogen economy – using the experience and scale of the sector to extend the use of low carbon hydrogen and to reduce refinery emissions simultaneously.

Low Carbon Liquid Fuels

While other energy carriers such as renewable electricity and hydrogen are likely to offer achievable alternatives for road transport, fewer technology options are currently available for carbon emissions reductions in the Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) and aviation sectors to allow full substitution of liquid hydrocarbons by 2050.

Low-carbon liquid fuels will therefore continue to be important in achieving GHG emissions reductions in the long-term as well as playing an important role in short-term decarbonisation efforts.

Greenhouse Gas Removals

Achieving net zero, or carbon neutrality, will mean that any carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from human activity is balanced by an equivalent amount being removed.

In 2019, the UK became the world’s first major economy to adopt a legally binding target to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net zero by 2050. In its October 2021 report HM Treasury made clear that carbon negative technology will be needed to balance hard to decarbonise parts of the economy such as heavy industry.

The Global Challenge

Fuels Industry UK members are making a positive contribution to both decarbonisation and energy security. The sector is helping to deliver net zero in a way that does not damage our economy. 

But the UK has higher industrial costs than most competitor countries, poorer incentives to develop new technologies, and a policy environment that currently offers less certainty for investors.

Without urgent action we risk falling behind and losing our global leadership in large-scale decarbonisation technologies like hydrogen, low carbon fuels, and carbon capture. 

Climate Change Policy

Climate Change Policy - How we manage our natural resources - including our response to the challenges of climate change - is one of the most pressing concerns facing businesses, governments and publics across the world.

Future of Mobility in the UK

The “Future of Mobility in the UK” report provides a comprehensive assessment of transport decarbonisation to identify important issues, challenges and possible solutions on how the UK’s biggest emitting sector can transform to meet net zero by 2050.

Transition, Transformation, and Innovation

This publication considers the role of the downstream oil sector in meeting the UK's net zero target.

The UK downstream oil sector is capable and willing to play a significant role in meeting societal targets for decarbonisation to net zero.

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