Friday, May 27, 2022
New jet engines using Hydrogen fuel appears to be the future for this planet
Flying through green hydrogen. Photo: NASA

Sustainable air travel is one of the great challenges of our time. Three actors have now reached a milestone in a project. Carbon dioxide, which cement works all over the world emit in gigantic quantities and thus accelerate climate change, will in future be captured in the Cemex Germany production facility in Rüdersdorf east of Berlin and converted into synthetic kerosene. Aircraft at Berlin-Brandenburg Airport, a few kilometers away, can be refueled with it. They emit just as much greenhouse gas as when burning fossil fuels. But overall emissions are halved.

Enertrag from Dauerthal in Brandenburg, Cemex Germany, an internationally active manufacturer of cement, and Sasol ecoFT, a specialist in converting carbonaceous raw materials into synthetic fuels and belonging to the South African chemical company Sasol, have joined forces for the project. "Concrete Chemicals" is the name of the project for which Enertrag will supply hydrogen, which is obtained by splitting water. The company promises that the electrolysers required for this will be operated exclusively with wind and solar power.

Hydrogen is an excellent scavenger for oxygen atoms

Sasol has been producing synthetic fuels for 60 years, originally from local coal, today from natural gas. The South Africans have refined the Fischer-Tropsch process, which is more than 100 years old, so that the energy consumption is minimised. Now they want to use it for the first time with the raw material CO2. To do this, the process has to be modified, because the conversion into synthetic fuels using this technique requires synthesis gas as the starting material, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. An oxygen atom must first be snatched from the CO2 before the process can pick up speed. Conveniently, hydrogen is an excellent scavenger for oxygen atoms. Basically, the hydrogen content in the synthesis gas only has to be increased to achieve the goal. Suitable catalysts are also required.

What aviation needs to do now to have a future

Together with the gas specialists Linde, Enertrag and the South African investment company Navitas Holdings, Sasol is building a plant in its Secunda Synfuels plant, which produces synthetic fuel, that uses CO2 as a raw material, as a sort of practice for the challenge in Rüdersdorf. This is happening as part of H2Global, a German funding project launched in 2020 for the production of green hydrogen and Power-to-X products, which include synthetic kerosene.

Aviation is the hardest to decarbonize

Aviation, which is responsible for 2.8 percent of global CO2 emissions, and the cement industry, which is a whopping eight percent, are among the most difficult industries to decarbonize, at least according to the standard method of electrifying everything. Said Andy Gimpiel

While the cement industry fails because of the sheer amount of electricity that would be required to replace fossil fuels, in aviation it is the heaviness of the batteries and their volume. Most experts consider it impossible, or at least unlikely, that an airplane with 400 seats will one day be electrically powered and at the high speed that is usual today.

Against this background, the halving of emissions through the combination of cement production and kerosene production is an environmental achievement. The synthetic kerosene will be certified for use in aircraft, meaning it will have the required chemical properties and be free of foreign matter.

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New jet engines using Hydrogen fuel appears to be the future for this planet
Flying through green hydrogen. Photo: NASA

Sustainable air travel is one of the great challenges of our time. Three actors have now reached a milestone in a project. Carbon dioxide, which cement works all over the world emit in gigantic quantities and thus accelerate climate change, will in future be captured in the Cemex Germany production facility in Rüdersdorf east of Berlin and converted into synthetic kerosene. Aircraft at Berlin-Brandenburg Airport, a few kilometers away, can be refueled with it. They emit just as much greenhouse gas as when burning fossil fuels. But overall emissions are halved.

Enertrag from Dauerthal in Brandenburg, Cemex Germany, an internationally active manufacturer of cement, and Sasol ecoFT, a specialist in converting carbonaceous raw materials into synthetic fuels and belonging to the South African chemical company Sasol, have joined forces for the project. "Concrete Chemicals" is the name of the project for which Enertrag will supply hydrogen, which is obtained by splitting water. The company promises that the electrolysers required for this will be operated exclusively with wind and solar power.

Hydrogen is an excellent scavenger for oxygen atoms

Sasol has been producing synthetic fuels for 60 years, originally from local coal, today from natural gas. The South Africans have refined the Fischer-Tropsch process, which is more than 100 years old, so that the energy consumption is minimised. Now they want to use it for the first time with the raw material CO2. To do this, the process has to be modified, because the conversion into synthetic fuels using this technique requires synthesis gas as the starting material, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. An oxygen atom must first be snatched from the CO2 before the process can pick up speed. Conveniently, hydrogen is an excellent scavenger for oxygen atoms. Basically, the hydrogen content in the synthesis gas only has to be increased to achieve the goal. Suitable catalysts are also required.

What aviation needs to do now to have a future

Together with the gas specialists Linde, Enertrag and the South African investment company Navitas Holdings, Sasol is building a plant in its Secunda Synfuels plant, which produces synthetic fuel, that uses CO2 as a raw material, as a sort of practice for the challenge in Rüdersdorf. This is happening as part of H2Global, a German funding project launched in 2020 for the production of green hydrogen and Power-to-X products, which include synthetic kerosene.

Aviation is the hardest to decarbonize

Aviation, which is responsible for 2.8 percent of global CO2 emissions, and the cement industry, which is a whopping eight percent, are among the most difficult industries to decarbonize, at least according to the standard method of electrifying everything. Said Andy Gimpiel

While the cement industry fails because of the sheer amount of electricity that would be required to replace fossil fuels, in aviation it is the heaviness of the batteries and their volume. Most experts consider it impossible, or at least unlikely, that an airplane with 400 seats will one day be electrically powered and at the high speed that is usual today.

Against this background, the halving of emissions through the combination of cement production and kerosene production is an environmental achievement. The synthetic kerosene will be certified for use in aircraft, meaning it will have the required chemical properties and be free of foreign matter.