German aerospace research centre DLR is to set up a new platform aimed at ramping up the development of power-to-liquid (PtL) e-fuels for aviation, after receiving a €12.7 million ($13.7 million) government grant for the project.
E-fuels are made using carbon dioxide and hydrogen. When the hydrogen is produced using renewable energy, the resulting synthetic fuel is carbon neutral.
DLR says the PtL Technology Platform (TPP) aims to “close the gap between development and industrial market ramp-up” of e-fuels. The German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport has provided DLR with an initial €12.7 million grant to cover the planning phase of the new platform. A decision on additional funding for the project will be taken at the end of this year.
“Electricity-based fuels are our best option for quickly and significantly reducing the climate and environmental impact of long-haul flights,” says Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla, chair of the DLR executive board. “We know how to achieve this and now we are getting started by bringing the necessary technologies from the laboratory into industrial application.”
The TPP will test new technologies and processes in co-operation with other stakeholders from academia and industry. The project will involve the operation of a semi-industrial plant capable of producing 10,000 tonnes of e-fuel a year, which DLR says would make it “the world’s largest research facility in the field of electricity-based fuels”.
In addition to cutting carbon dioxide emissions, e-fuels have the potential to “significantly reduce” the non-CO2 global warming effects of aviation, says DLR. Non-CO2 effects such as nitrogen oxides and contrails amplify the impact of aviation on climate change.
Under its ‘Fit for 55’ greenhouse gas emissions-reduction initiative, the European Commission has proposed a blending mandate for sustainable aviation fuels which includes a sub-target to ensure that e-fuels make up a certain amount of the SAF used.
The proposed mandate calls for 5% of jet fuel for flights departing from EU airports to be SAF from 2030 – 0.7% of which must be e-fuels. This rises to 63% SAF in 2050, of which 28% must be e-fuels.
These targets will require a massive scaling up of SAF volumes, which currently account for less than 1% of total global jet fuel.