Biokerosene is not booming yet
Although global air traffic is growing by 6 to 7% annually due to increasing prosperity, aviation is responsible for only 2 to 3% of CO2 emissions produced by humans”, says Joris Melkert, aviation expert at TU Delft University. Sustainable kerosene might be a solution to reduce CO2 emissions but the stock is limited and the price is much higher.
Implementation of new technologies takes time
In October last year, the main parties in the Dutch aviation sector launched the Slim and Sustainable plan. KLM, EasyJet, travel agencies and airports, among others, are signing a program to reduce CO2 emissions by 35% by 2030 to ‘around’ 2005 levels.
This includes radical fleet renewal, optimization of flight routes, better use of international train connections on short journeys and the use of sustainable kerosene.
It will be decades, though, before electricity and hydrogen will play a significant role in aviation because airplanes have a long life expectancy (15 to 20 years) and a long development time. This is why a sustainable alternative to kerosene that can be used in conventional aircraft is so important.
Biokerosene production exists
According to the Action Plan, from 2030 on 14% of kerosene in the Netherlands must be from sustainable fuel. The internationally permitted maximum for biokerosene blends is 50%, but the supply of synthetic kerosene (non-fossil) is limited.
Biokerosene can reduce CO2 emissions up to 80%, depending on the raw materials used and the production route. “Even though it is in its infancy, the production route to produce biofuel is already quite advanced”, says Anouk van Grinsven, senior researcher at the environmental research and consultancy agency CE Delft.
Not all biokerosene is sustainable. KLM buys its sustainable fuel from World Energy in Los Angeles, which uses used frying oil as a raw material. There are also fewer sustainable ways to make kerosene from palm oil, sugar cane and soy.
“Only five mixes of raw materials have been approved worldwide”, says Maarten van Dijk, director of SkyNRG, an Amsterdam-based biokerosene trader. SkyNRG sells most of the world’s renewable aviation fuel.
“With biokerosene we are at the beginning”, says Van Dijk. Worldwide, 5.000 tons of biokerosene are now consumed on a total of 250 million tons of kerosene. The production has to be scaled up from laboratory level to large factories, which will easily take another fifteen to twenty years.
Another sustainable kerosene is synthetic kerosene. In that fuel, carbon is chemically combined with hydrogen. This carbon can be produced from gas or from coal.
However, sustainable synthetic kerosene is obtained by extracting the carbon from the air, either through CO2 capture or not. The hydrogen can be extracted by electrolysis with green electricity. In this way you make fuel with a closed carbon cycle, a sustainable kerosene.
Production plans in the Netherlands
Dick Benschop, director of Schiphol, announced early last month that ‘a pilot installation for the production of synthetic fuel’ will be installed at Rotterdam The Hague Airport. According to an insider, it will be a pilot in which CO2 captured from the air is used.
SkyNRG would also have similar plans. This would involve the production of kerosene from residues, such as used deep-frying oil. SkyNRG Director, Maarten van Dijk does not want to comment on that. The plans would be supported by KLM, which is now unable to meet its higher ambitions due to a lack of sustainable biofuel.