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Aviation accounts for around 2.5 per cent of global CO2 emissions | Photo source Rae Galatas on Unsplash

A partnership to develop carbon-neutral aviation fuel

Mobility & Transport

A German aircraft manufacturer and a South African energy company are joining forces to develop sustainable hydrogen-based power-to-liquid aviation fuel

Spotted: German aircraft manufacturer Deutsche Aircraft and South African chemicals and energy company Sasol have announced that they will begin working on advancing green hydrogen-based power-to-liquid (PtL) technology for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The use of PtL-SAF is increasingly being seen as a long-term solution to minimise the carbon footprint of aviation. The process uses carbon dioxide removed from the air and renewably produced hydrogen to form a synthetic fuel.

Power-to-liquid is a process first developed in Germany in the early 1900s, as an indirect way to liquefy coal for use as a replacement fuel for traditional fossil-based petroleum. Modern PtL-SAF is produced by first using electrolysers (powered by renewable energy) to generate green hydrogen. Then,  CO2 that has been captured through processes such as direct air capture is converted into carbon feedstock. The carbon feedstocks are then synthesised with the green hydrogen using processes similar to those developed in the 1920s to generate liquid hydrocarbons. The end product is a synthetic equivalent to kerosene. 

Ptl-SAF fuels have similar characteristics to regular kerosene, namely, they are safe and have a high energy density at low volume. They can also be distributed using existing infrastructure. However, the synthetic fuels contain less aromatics and sulphur than kerosene, thus reducing the high-altitude impact of aviation. Moreover, the fuels are ‘carbon neutral’ in the sense that burning them only releases CO2 that was previously removed from the atmosphere during the fuel’s production. Sasol and Deutsche Aircraft have signed a memorandum of understanding to foster the development and certification of sustainable drop-in and non-drop-in jet fuels, and to ramp up the development of PtL-SAF for aviation. 

Helge Sachs, Senior Vice President, of Sasol ecoFT has pointed out that such partnerships are vital to the future of aviation, saying, “We are extremely excited about the partnership with Deutsche Aircraft as we take a holistic approach to climate-neutral aviation by looking at the whole value chain from fuel production up to aircraft system level. Joining forces between aircraft manufacturers and fuel producers is vital, if we want to ensure that aviation becomes sustainable, while ensuring the highest possible safety standards.” 

Sustainable aviation is seen as a major climate goal. Springwise has recently covered a number of developments in sustainable fuels, including a programme in Chile that is aiming to produce SAFs using wind power, and flights powered entirely by SAFs produced from waste fats

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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