SAS, Shell, and Vattenfall join forces for fossil-free e-fuel
Dutch oil giant Shell, Swedish energy provider Vattenfall, and Scandinavia’s leading airline SAS announced to jointly study the possibilities to produce 50 000 tons of electrofuel for aviation, made from green hydrogen and CO2, captured from a district heating facility.
With full production up and running, SAS could provide up to 25 percent of its global demand for sustainable aviation fuel in the 2030s. E-fuel is one form of SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) that uses no fossil feedstock at all. It’s an alternative to biofuel SAF made from waste like cooking oil and residue as used by TotalEnergies and Air France-KLM.
Certified for 50% SAF blend
Today’s aircraft are certified to fly with a maximum of 50% SAF depending on the production pathway of the latter and how much traditional aviation fuel (kerosene) is added. In May, an Airbus A350 from Air France-KLM made its first long-distance flight from Paris to Montreal (Canada) on SAF biofuel, a 16% blend added to the kerosine.
The technique Shell and its Swedish partners are exploring is promising as there is no CO2 emission when producing the fuel. On the contrary, CO2 from heating that would otherwise blow in the air is captured and ‘reused’. But it doesn’t come cheap.
Green electricity and CO2
The raw materials planned to be used are ‘green’ electricity from the Swedish electricity grid and carbon dioxide collected from Vattenfall’s combined heat and power plant in Uppsala, where approximately 200 000 tons of carbon dioxide can be recovered per year.
Green electricity is used first to make ‘green’ hydrogen by electrolysis from water. Carbon dioxide and hydrogen can be converted into ethanol in a process developed by LanzaTech.
Carbon capturing in Belgium
The latter was initially founded in New Zealand as a start-up that focuses on converting carbon emissions to valuable products, including fuels. It’s now based in the US near Chicago, with several projects set up worldwide, including Belgium. The company is working with ArcelorMittal in Ghent to capture carbon from its blast furnaces and convert it into bioethanol.
By taking industrial emissions and feeding them to bacteria, the company makes ethanol fuel, the fuel additive usually (and controversially) made from corn or sugarcane. Ethanol is simple alcohol with the chemical formula C2H6O.
Added in regular car gasoline
It is already added to gasoline to create the E10 blend, a mixture of 10% anhydrous ethanol and 90% gasoline. This can be used in the internal combustion engines of most modern cars without the need for any modification on the engine or fuel system.
For the Swedish project, and to be used as fuel for aviation, the ethanol needs to be converted via the ‘LanzaJet Alcohol to Jet process’ into aviation electrofuel. When electrofuel is combusted by aircraft engines, the captured carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere after being utilized a second time. So the net result is a 50% CO2 reduction.