The world’s first production plant for power-to-liquid aviation fuels opened in Emsland, Germany, with backers predicting it could make a big contribution to carbon-dioxide neutral flying.

The plant for CO2-neutral electric-kerosene is being operated by atmosfair, a German non-profit organisation that promotes, develops and finances renewable energy projects. Logistics companies Lufthansa Cargo and Kuehne+Nagel are among the first customers for the fuel. 

Pressure has increased on airlines in recent years to make flying more environmentally-friendly, with protest action gaining pace. 

While electric propulsion for larger planes seems a way off, many airlines are turning to sustainable aviation fuels but these are only available in limited quantities at present. 

In order to meet our global climate goals, we have to make progress in the transport sector, not least in aviation,” German chancellor Angela Merkel said in a televised address for the opening of the plant on October 4, 2021. “Synthetic CO2-neutral kerosene plays an important role here. With our power to liquid roadmap we want to ramp up the market for this fuel,” she said. 

The Emsland plant runs on green electricity from local wind and solar power and has a biogas plant on site, where organic material is decomposed, producing CO2 in relatively high concentrations. The plant uses CO2 from the biogas plant and from the air, plus water to make a synthetic crude oil that is then refined into e-kerosene.

“Thus the kerosene is CO2-neutral and has no other negative environmental effects,” atmosfair states. 

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Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) is currently Europe’s largest customer for sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). These are of biogenic origin, where agricultural waste or used cooking oils is used to produce kerosene. 

The German airline group announced on October 4, 2021, that it has agreed to purchase at least 25,000 liters of power to liquid fuel annually over the next five years and make it available to customers.  

There is so much discussion about what will be possible in the future, but here we are showing what is possible today,” Lufthansa Cargo chief executive Dorothea von Boxberg said at the plant’s opening ceremony. 

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