Flying on CO₂, water and renewable power
Shell researcher Marcel enjoys variation in his work activities. Nevertheless, he has been working in the gas-to-liquids (GTL) department of the Energy Transition Campus Amsterdam for 16 years. GTL technology can be used for virtually anything, currently even to turn water, CO₂ and green electricity into jet fuel. That certainly makes Marcel's work interesting. "I started in the GTL department and stayed there."
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 Shell researchers at ETCA 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.
How its made - Synthetic kerosene (GTL)
Title: STCA – How it’s made – Synthetic kerosene (GTL)
Duration: 3:40 minutes
Video gives an overview of how synthetic kerosine is made at the Shell Technology Center Amsterdam (STCA).
Video outlines the process through which synthetic Kerosene is made at STCA. It is explained how Hydrogen gas, along with Carbon dioxide, is used to make paraffin, which is then turned into Kerosine.
STCA – How it’s made – Synthetic kerosene (GTL)
[Background music plays]
Soft bright background music plays throughout the video
Various clips of pedestrians, airplanes and highways are shown.
“Society is facing a huge challenge. We transport ourselves and the goods we use, by air. We supply shops using lorries.”
Laundry detergent and a plastic toothbrush are shown.
“We use products made from fossil raw materials, like detergents, mattresses and cosmetics. At the same time, we are asking if there’s a cleaner way to do these things.”
The exterior and interior of the STCA building are shown, followed footage of various industrial apparatuses and chemical testing set-ups.
“That’s what we research here.
At Shell in Amsterdam we’re experimenting, for example, with a new technology to produce sustainable fuels for aviation, or new ways to make raw materials for everyday products.
A process which originally used fossil natural gas as its raw material, can now use carbon dioxide, water and green electricity to produce the same products.
Let’s see how that works.”
Overtop of footage of solar panels on the STCA roof and footage of a windmill, an animation is shown in which the makeup of a hydrogen molecule, two hydrogen atoms, is shown.
“We start with water and green electricity. Using these, we make green hydrogen. We call hydrogen green when it is produced using renewable power, such as wind or solar power.”
Long cables are shown. Two shell employees are shown operating a machine that is housed inside of a shipping container. One of the pipes on the machine has a label on it that reads “hydrogen”.
“Green electricity from the solar panels on our roof feeds the electrolyzer. Here, electricity and water come together, and we then split the water into hydrogen and oxygen.”
A pipeline is shown, running from the electrolyzer to a tall building.
“The green hydrogen travels through this pipeline to a large pilot plant in this hall.”
Overtop of footage of gas cannisters, an animation is shown in which the makeup of a Carbon dioxide molecule. The molecule consists of oxygen atoms and one carbon atom.
“Next, we need CO2. This is recycled CO2. In gas bottles.”
Footage is shown of the Shell refinery in Pernis, followed by footage of grazing cows at another location.
“It comes from places like this one. Our refinery in Rotterdam-Pernis. The great thing is: recycling CO2 prevents additional emissions.
Dairy farms are another possible source of CO2.
Biogas can be created from manure. That process results in the release of CO2. For the organic farmer, this is a by-product. For us it’s a raw material.”
A control room with two Shell employees is shown. The screens in the control room show various graphs and diagrams. Then an industrial apparatus is shown.
“So we have captured CO2 and green hydrogen. Now we combine them both in this oven.”
Overtop footage of the industrial apparatus, an animation is shown of how a carbon dioxide loses one oxygen atom. Then, the animation shows that Hydrogen and Carbon monoxide combined make up syngas.
“High temperatures induce a chemical reaction. This causes the CO2 to lose one of its two oxygen atoms.
The result is a perfect gas mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide: syngas”
A tall industrial apparatus, consisting of many vertical pipes, rising up multiple stories, is shown.
“We inject syngas, the mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, into the top of this installation.”
A white solid substance can be seen exiting a metal port on the end of a pipe. A Shell employee, wearing a lab coat, breaks up the substance with his hands and adds it to a glass beaker for inspection. Another Shell employee, wearing a lab coat, is shown opening a metal drum containing a white powdery substance.
“There, it combines with a catalyst. The catalyst holds the molecules stable and ensures that the chemical reaction in the unit proceeds as efficiently as possible.
At the bottom, the mixture comes out as a white wax which we call paraffin. We also know this as candle wax. ”
An industrial apparatus, with a glass bottle in it, is shown. A clear liquid can be seen dripping into the bottle. A Shell employee, wearing a lab coat, uses a flashlight to inspect the inside of the apparatus and the contents of the bottle.
“Lastly, the white wax goes into this installation.
The catalyst in this unit operates like a pair of scissors, cutting the wax molecules into the desired length.”
A glass bottle is placed on a table amongst some other glass bottles. The label on the bottle reads “XTL Base oil XHVI-8”. Then, a larger glass bottle labeled “Synthetic Kerosene” is shown, followed by a bottle labeled “Shell GTL Norlam Paraffin 10-13, made from C02, Water and Renewable Power”. Finally, a plastic toothbrush is shown.
“Depending on the configured length of the resulting molecules, we can make a variety of end-products from the wax.
Using this method, we produced the first aviation kerosine made from CO2, water and green electricity; as well as raw materials for detergents, cosmetics and plastics.
Footage of a KLM passenger plane that is being refueled is shown, followed by a view of the back of the fueling truck. The back of the truck reads “Synthetic kerosene: the future?”
“In early 2021, a KLM passenger plane flew on a mixture including this sustainably produced synthetic kerosine. A first for the world.”
Two Shell employees, both wearing lab coats, can be seen discussing amidst industrial apparatuses. Then, a series of portrait shots of Shell employees is shown.
“It is technically possible, but it will take a lot more work to make this commercially viable. One step at a time we will contribute to a net-zero world, where society stops adding to the total amount of greenhouse gases emissions (GHGs) in the atmosphere. Would you like to know more? Visit our website to read about this and other innovations that Shell is working on.”
The Shell logo appears against a white background.
[Background music plays]
Shell jingle (mnemonic) is played as the Shell logo appears.
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.
Wereldprimeur: eerste passagiersvlucht met duurzame synthetische kerosine
Vliegen op duurzame, synthetische kerosine gemaakt van CO2, water en hernieuwbare energie. Kan dat? Ja, zo bewijzen Shell en KLM.
Technology at work
In collaboration with various partners, ETCA 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.