DLR starts planning production of climate-neutral kerosene

Refueling the Airbus A320-232- D-ATRA with synthetic fuel/Photo: DLR


Synthetic fuels, along with battery and fuel cell propulsion systems, are another technological building block for making the mobility of the future sustainable and climate-neutral. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has now been commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) to plan a pilot plant for the production of climate-neutral synthetic fuels on an industrial scale.

The pilot project is intended to accelerate the market introduction of electricity-based fuels. Switching to electricity-based kerosene could save millions of tons of CO2 emissions in air traffic. However, this would require several million metric tons of climate-neutral fuel by 2030. Electricity-based fuels are not yet being produced in marketable quantities. That’s why DLR has been commissioned to work with partners from research and industry to design a production facility so that the fuel can be produced economically and used more quickly, according to Andreas Scheuer, Germany’s Federal Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure.

Electricity-based synthetic fuels, also called power-to-liquid (PtL) fuels, are chemically produced from hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Electricity-based because the hydrogen needed is produced with electricity through water electrolysis. The carbon dioxide comes from the air or other sources, such as biomass, waste incinerators or cement plants. The hydrocarbons obtained are then processed into gasoline or kerosene. Using electricity from renewable energy sources, these fuels can be produced in a climate-neutral manner. The DLR Institute of Combustion Technology in Stuttgart, together with the Technical University of Hamburg and the John Brown Voest company from the Griesemann Group, is taking the lead in developing a concept for the pilot plant as part of the study. This includes suitable manufacturing processes, production chains and technical equipment. Important planning criteria are size, costs and location factors.

Only large volumes make synthetic fuels profitable

Synthetic fuels could be a building block on the way to climate-neutral mobility in the future. Their production is still complex and expensive. But the time to act is now, says Prof. Karsten Lemmer, DLR Executive Board member for Energy and Transport. Making synthetic fuels profitable means producing large quantities and integrating them into the existing energy and mobility system. The challenge is to keep an eye on the entire process chain.

Designed to produce 10,000 metric tons of climate-neutral kerosene and gasoline per year

The scientists will first determine how large-scale plants with production volumes of up to 10,000 metric tons per year can contribute to a timely and economical market launch of synthetic fuels. There is still no complete plant in the world that can supply electricity-based fuels on an industrial scale in accordance with standards. As a result, there is also no experience yet in the commercial sector, according to Prof. Manfred Aigner, project manager and director of the DLR Institute of Combustion Technology.

At the same time, the pilot project will serve as a development platform to advance process technologies. Researchers are to identify key components and intelligently interconnect system elements in a targeted manner. The development platform will be available to research institutions, small and medium-sized enterprises and industry to test and advance further technologies.

According to DLR, the great advantage of synthetic liquid fuels is their very high energy density. This makes them particularly suitable for aviation and shipping. They can also be used directly in combustion engines and in turbines in existing fleets. In the German government’s National Hydrogen Strategy, synthetic fuels are among the important building blocks for modern and sustainable mobility systems. jwm

Source: German Aerospace Center (DLR)

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