Produced from hydrogen and carbon dioxide, the aim is to take a bite out of aviation’s ecological footprint. The one thing you can’t put your finger on about synthetic kerosene – which, according to the announcement, will be produced in Germany for the first time in the world – is that it’s cheap.
The price of the fuel produced in the new plant in Werlte will initially be much higher than that of conventional kerosene. Although it is not known how much the first customer, Lufthansa, will pay for the synthetic kerosene, the CEO of Atmosfair, the company that owns the plant, says that €5 per litre is a price that can be achieved by 2030: that alone is many times the current price of conventional kerosene. The question is who will pay the extra, and according to Dorothea von Boxberg, head of Lufthansa Cargo, everyone involved in aviation: the end consumer, the intermediary companies, as well as the companies in the aviation industry, reports ABC News.
In other words, prices are expected to rise, but why is it worth it, and what makes kerosene environmentally friendly in the first place? Aviation currently accounts for 2.5 percent of global carbon emissions, and while other modes of transport and travel are increasingly electrified, aviation is still only a trial run. Examples include the growing number of passenger aircraft being developed, Rolls-Royce’s electric plane which spent a quarter of an hour in the air, and the world’s largest electric plane, a converted Cessna Grand Caravan 208, which flew for half an hour on an electric motor. However, these are small machines and, as it turns out, they cannot spend much time in the air.
Therefore, another way to reduce carbon emissions is the emergence of different e-fuels, which work basically like conventional kerosene and therefore do not require any modification of the machinery. The only difference is in production: synthetic kerosene is expected to eventually remove as much CO2 from the atmosphere as it burns, so the final bill will be break-even in this respect.
The plant in Werlte produces crude oil from hydrogen and carbon dioxide, which can then be refined into kerosene, but only part of the CO2 is extracted from the atmosphere, the rest is obtained from a nearby biogas plant. The aim, however, is to get all the CO2 needed from the atmosphere. At present, the capacity is not very muscular: only 336 gallons are produced per day – for comparison, in 2019 (before the epidemic) commercial aviation burned 95 billion gallons of kerosene. But the point, according to the non-profit Atmosfair, is to prove the feasibility of the technology, and over time prices will converge with conventional kerosene for two main reasons: firstly, carbon taxes will be added to kerosene, and secondly, cheaper solar power could reduce the cost of production.
The aviation industry is also trying to get rid of its huge carbon footprint: for example, Boob Supersonic airline plans to run its fleet on 100 per cent alternative fuel, while the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced this week that it aims to achieve zero emissions by 2050.
Source: ABC News