Flying on CO2, water and renewable power
Onderzoeker Marcel houdt van afwisseling in zijn werk. Toch werkt hij al 16 jaar op de gas-to-liquids (GTL) afdeling van het Shell Technology Centre in Amsterdam. De GTL-technologie kan voor van alles gebruikt worden, nu zelfs om uit water, CO₂ en groene stroom vliegtuigbrandstof te maken. Daardoor blijft het interessant. “Ik ben bij de GTL-afdeling begonnen en daar gebleven.”
What are you holding in your hand?
“This is a bottle with Shell’s first liter of sustainable synthetic kerosene made from CO2, water, and renewable power.”
What solution are you working on?
“I am working on a solution that can make aviation more sustainable. Kerosene is known as a polluting fuel that is mainly made from fossil sources. Now we can demonstrate that Shell can also produce it using ingredients such as CO2, water, and renewable power. In order to make this possible, we have linked all kinds of different processes together and made lots of changes to the laboratory equipment. The challenge to produce 500 liters of sustainable, synthetic kerosene came from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. To do this on a commercial scale still requires a lot of work, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
“Early 2021, a KLM aircraft was fueled with the first batch of 500 liters.”
What exactly do you do?
“I conduct experiments in a small pilot plant, the size of an average living room. I test the catalysts, which ‘cut’ the wax (the product from an earlier step in the process) into the desired end product. Today it can be kerosene and tomorrow it can be lubricants.”
“By testing on a small scale first, we can test the production of certain products more efficiently than directly in a plant. I can mimic a large plant because the conditions are the same during the process and we use the same equipment and parts. The only difference is that everything is much smaller. A real plant makes tons per hour, they can’t just try anything there. I can throw away my jerrycan with product which didn’t turn out right and then try something else, until it is right. When the results allow, the plant can then copy my configurations.”
Who do you work with?
“Part of the CO2 for this batch of kerosene comes from the farm Dairy Campus. This is a research facility for a sustainable dairy sector. DMT Environmental Technology makes biogas from manure and other by-products. The CO2 released during this process is a by-product for the organic farmer. For our process, it is a raw material. We also used CO2 from the Shell refinery in Pernis. Linde Gas has made great efforts to prepare as much CO2 as possible before the start of a maintenance break. Thanks to the flexibility and helpfulness of Linde Gas, the availability of CO2 seamlessly followed the speed of the project. And of course, KLM, which made the demonstration flight possible.”
What’s in it for the consumer?
“This may be one of the solutions that enables carbon-neutral aviation in the future.”
The gas-to-liquids (GTL) process uses natural gas instead of oil to make liquid products such as fuels for road vehicles or aviation. In addition, the GTL process can also make raw materials for everyday products such as detergents, cosmetics, plastics and lubricants. The researchers at STCA are now using their experience in the field of the GTL process to investigate how this process can play a role in the energy transition. Instead of natural gas, a fossil fuel, the GTL process can also use green hydrogen together with carbon dioxide (CO2) as feedstock.
Het gas-to-liquids (GTL) proces gebruikt aardgas in plaats van olie om vloeibare producten te maken zoals brandstoffen voor voertuigen met dieselmotoren en brandstof voor vliegtuigen. Daarnaast kan het GTL-proces ook grondstoffen voor alledaagse producten zoals wasmiddelen, cosmetica, kunststof en smeermiddelen maken.
Vliegen op duurzame, synthetische kerosine gemaakt van CO2, water en hernieuwbare energie. Kan dat? Ja, zo bewijzen Shell en KLM.
In collaboration with various partners, STCA researchers are working hard on energy solutions for today and tomorrow. But what exactly are those solutions? And what’s in it for the consumer? Five Shell researchers show an object from their research and talk about what they do and why it matters. Read the short interviews here.