With food waste to «green kerosene»

Werlte (dpa) – No plane lands where the revolution in air traffic starts. Rather, it smells quite clearly of agriculture.

Dense maize fields enclose a biogas plant in the northern Emsland near Werlte, around 60 kilometers from Oldenburg. But the conditions here are ideal for producing climate-neutral aircraft fuel.

The plant is scheduled to officially go into operation on Monday. The Kiel climate researcher Mojib Latif and Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) are there.

“I had to search for a long time to find a suitable location,” says Dietrich Brockhagen, managing director of Atmosfair gGmbh, a non-profit climate protection organization from Berlin. The ideal location is here in the Lower Saxony province – where biogas plants and wind turbines are at almost every intersection.

“We only need the carbon dioxide from the biogas plant,” says Brockhagen. Hydrogen, which is produced using wind power, is added to the gas. In the plant, which was built behind the biogas plant of the partner and regional energy supplier EWE, hydrogen and carbon dioxide are processed into raw kerosene using chemical processes. It is processed into jet A1 aviation fuel in the Heide refinery north of Hamburg, which delivers it to Hamburg Airport , no specially grown corn or other plants. Waste from the food industry from the region is processed here.

The electricity from the wind turbine does not take anything away from anyone, because the old wind turbines have long since ceased to be eligible for funding under the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) . “Now the operators get the money from us,” says Brockhagen. The production of hydrogen is therefore not at the expense of the energy transition.

There is also a system on the site that extracts carbon dioxide from the air. That is the real goal: not to get the CO2 from specially cultivated plants or from industry – for example from cement or steel works – but to operate neutrally. Brockhagen explains that only the CO2 that was previously extracted should end up in the atmosphere.

The e-kerosene should help the aviation industry out of a tight spot. Because aircraft cannot do without liquid fuel and switch to electric drives. At the same time, however, aviation must also make its way towards climate neutrality. According to calculations by the German Aerospace Center, aviation accounts for 3.5 percent of man-made climate change. So the industry is looking for climate-neutral fuel.

For Schulze, aviation must also make a contribution so that Germany can achieve climate neutrality by 2045: “With the right framework conditions, electricity-based liquid aviation fuels can now find that Away from the laboratory and into the market. ” The technology offers economic opportunities for Germany and its partners. “Germany is a leader in plant engineering, other countries have a lot of wind and sun. If we now show that this technology works, it will also create new export opportunities for plant construction, “says the minister.

The environmental organization Greenpeace generally welcomes the plant in Emsland, says spokesman Gregor Kessler. In order to replace the aviation fuel sold in Germany 2018 with synthetic kerosene, the entire annual German production of wind power would have been necessary. “In order for the e-fuels plans to work, we need an expansion turbo for renewables,” says Kessler.

However, e-kerosene alone cannot solve the airlines’ climate problem. According to Kessler, two thirds of the climate damage caused by a flight is caused by contrails at high altitudes. Therefore, the number of flights must decrease overall. Short flights within Germany and on shorter European routes should therefore be replaced by a network of express trains as soon as possible.

Lufthansa is a pilot customer for the fuel. The company is currently the largest buyer of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) in Europe, says Christina Foerster from the Group’s board of directors. Synthetic fuels from renewable energies are the kerosene of the future and enable CO2-neutral air traffic. By purchasing e-kerosene, Lufthansa wants to give manufacturing and production an “important tailwind”. Lufthansa currently uses biofuels that are made from old edible oils or agricultural waste.

Synthetically produced kerosene promises the greatest savings in greenhouse gas emissions and must therefore be made economically attractive through the planned production ramp-up and long-term reliable framework conditions, Melanie Form, head of the Aviation Initiative for Renewable Energy in Germany eV (aireg) office, also emphasizes. The project therefore needs imitators.

So far, synthetic jet fuel has only been produced on a small scale. The plant in Emsland is a huge leap forward, says Brockhagen. For the first time, synthetic kerosene is being produced on an industrial scale. However, it is only a small drop in a huge barrel: it will be able to produce 8 barrels of kerosene a day, which corresponds to one ton of fuel. But an Airbus A 350 alone consumes 5 tons of kerosene per flight hour, explains Brockhagen.

Plants for the production of synthetic kerosene should ideally be built in southern countries. Energy costs are low there. Atmosfair supports projects in the sense of a partnership and technology transfer. “If we generate 10 megawatts of electricity for the plant in Ethiopia, for example, we want to give another extra 10 megawatts for the people there,” says Brockhagen.

In principle, the production of synthetic, climate-neutral fuel for shipping is also conceivable. “What doesn’t make sense, however, are e-fuels for the car,” explains the Atmosfair boss. Here electric vehicles are used as a technology and are significantly more efficient than combustion engines.

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