A very enthusiastic Siemens Energy executive is pitching a synthetic fuel that combines captured carbon dioxide with hydrogen from solar-powered electrolysis as an alternative to the kerosene-based fuel that currently powers the aviation industry.
Manuel Kuehn, the company’s recently-appointed head of new energy for Middle East and Africa, “is evangelical about the potential of a newly-announced push by the German technology giant and other partners to deliver a sustainable, cost-effective solution to an aviation sector that is keen to decarbonize, and shed its image as one of the bad boys of climate change,” Recharge News reports. Siemens is running the project along with Abu Dhabi-based clean energy group Masdar and two airlines, the UAE’s Etihad and Germany’s Lufthansa.
Kuehn said he foresees “insane” volume for the fuel if it taps into just a fraction of the available market, Recharge says. The project partners hope to come up with a viable synthetic “e-fuel” by 2025.
“In Kuehn’s view, the greening of aviation fuel represents pretty much the best use case for green hydrogen from renewables of all the myriad applications being explored globally for the key energy transition fuel,” the news story adds. That view “rests on the sheer volumes of fuel required by the global aviation sector, which—provided it recovers from its pandemic-induced stall and resumes anything like its former growth path—will be vast.”
Citing the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Recharge notes that aviation consumed 360 billion litres of fuel in 2019 and produced 900 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. The industry lobby group wants to see 2% of that demand met by what it calls “sustainable” aviation fuels by mid-decade.
“Two percent in production litres is insane amounts compared to the [pilot projects] under way,” Kuehn said. “The 2% will be achieved with all the projects we know and some we don’t. And that’s just 2%.”
Recharge says Kuehn’s sense of urgency is driven both by the demand he sees for his product and competing efforts by EDF, Air Liquide, and Rolls-Royce, among others, to tap the same market.
“Our ambition is to be fast. There is no reason to wait,” he said. “Considering the need to build the technology, understand the value chain, certify all this, and get the fuels approved in the airline industry, you’d better start today.”
Recharge News has details on the Siemens plan, including the company’s willingness to build captured carbon into its hydrogen product until production ramps up.