Publication Detail

"Comparing Infrastructure Requirements" chapter 5 in Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways: A Research Summary for Decision Makers



Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (STEPS)

Download PDF

Suggested Citation:
Ogden, Joan M., Christopher Yang, Yueyue Fan, Nathan C. Parker (2011) "Comparing Infrastructure Requirements" chapter 5 in Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways: A Research Summary for Decision Makers. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, 121 - 132

For biofuels, electricity, and hydrogen to assume major roles as transportation fuels over the next several decades—as they must if we are to meet future goals for low-carbon transportation—one or more new fuel infrastructures will have to be developed. We define a fuel infrastructure as all of the components of the physical system needed to provide transportation fuels to the end user, including extracting primary resources, transporting them to a fuel production plant, processing them to produce transportation fuels, providing refueling sites, and delivering fuels to these refueling locations. In some cases one fuel infrastructure can depend on another (for example, the electricity system depends on other infrastructures that deliver coal or natural gas). In this chapter we will focus mainly on infrastructure issues for the particular fuel supply chain in question and less on the underlying infrastructures (for example, more on the hydrogen infrastructure itself and less on the natural gas or electricity infrastructure supplying energy to make hydrogen).

Today’s transportation system is 97-percent dependent on petroleum-based liquid fuels. A vast petroleum infrastructure has developed over a century, encompassing worldwide oil exploration and production, long-distance  transport of crude oil to hundreds of refineries, and an extensive network of pipelines and trucks delivering gasoline and diesel to terminals and refueling stations. Since 1980, the global capital expenditure to maintain and expand this massive infrastructure has averaged hundreds of billions of dollars per year, about 80 percent of which is devoted to finding and extracting crude oil, and the remainder to refineries, storage, and pipelines. Infrastructure costs are rising: the investment in petroleum fuel infrastructure between 2007 and 2030 is projected to be about $1 trillion in North America alone and $6 trillion globally.

In this chapter we discuss general considerations for building transportation fuel infrastructures and compare infrastructure challenges for biofuels, electricity, and hydrogen with respect to system design, resources, technology status, cost, reliability, and transition barriers such as compatibility with existing infrastructures. Finally, we discuss policies that might be needed to provide incentives for new infrastructure development.

Book available online at