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Germany Opens World’s First Clean Jet Fuel Plant

Tying in with the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) announcement of the commitment to reach net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, nonprofit organisation Atmosfair has opened the world’s first plant that will produce carbon-neutral jet fuel.

The Independent reports that Atmosfear has announced that its site in Emsland in Northern Germany is expected to begin producing eight barrels - around 1 tonne - of synthetic kerosine a day by early 2022.

Synthetic kerosene, also called e-kerosene or power-to-liquid (PtL), is seen as having huge potential to slash the aviation industry’s carbon footprint. But there are a few reasons the green fuel hasn’t taken off yet.

Aeroplanes are among the most carbon-intensive ways to travel, due to planes being powered by fossil fuels - kerosine. The aviation sector is responsible for between two and three per cent of global CO2 emissions and aims to reduce this to half of 2005 levels by 2050.


Why synthetic kerosene?

E-kerosene is a type of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) that can be blended with conventional jet fuel to bring down flight emissions. 

SAFs are typically biofuels made from sustainable feedstocks such as waste products or agricultural residues and are viewed as a promising alternative because they can reduce emissions by up to 80 per cent over the lifetime of the fuel compared to fossil-based kerosine.

Atmosfair’s plant in Emsland will produce carbon-neutral synthetic kerosine by combing hydrogen, generated from renewable electricity from nearby wind turbines, with sustainable carbon dioxide captured from the air and biomass.

The output will then be mixed with conventional kerosene and transported to Hamburg Airport to fuel flights, including those of German carrier Lufthansa.

Current jet engines can technically run on up to 50 per cent SAF, but seeing as SAF production is currently around 0.1 per cent of the total aviation fuel consumed globally, it is a long way from happening.

Some governments have introduced quotas to drive those numbers up. Germany, for example, wants 0.5 per cent of the 10 million tons used by the German aviation industry each year to be e-kerosene by 2026, with that rising to 2 per cent or 200,000 tons by 2030. 

The European Union has proposed setting a quota of 2 per cent SAFs from 2025 with that rising to 5 per cent, including a sub-quota of 0.7 per cent for e-kerosene, from 2030. 

German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, speaking at the inauguration of the e-kerosene production site, said that meeting these targets will require a massive scale-up of production.

PtL fuels only serve climate protection if green hydrogen is used. For green hydrogen, we need much more electricity from renewable energies,” he said, adding that the technology is available and functional.

“It’s now up to businesses to scale this and I hope many will follow the call.”  



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