Creating jet fuel from water

Issue: 2 / 2020

German scientists and business leaders are working to create what they hope will be the first viable market for a carbon-neutral version of the kerosene that already powers most modern aircraft. The science is still based on chemical reactions pioneered in Germany in 1925, but instead of converting coal and other fossil fuels like the oil-starved Nazis did during World War II, green kerosene is derived from water and actually pulls carbon dioxide out of the air during creation. The process which requires huge amounts of electricity generated from renewable resources to ensure carbon neutrality, fractures water into oxygen and hydrogen, which is then combined with carbon. The project is being overseen by Bremen University, in a consummately German public-private research strategy that previously created the MP3. The German system, which the US is trying to emulate, aims to produce green fuels required for a sector of the economy like aviation that relies heavily on petroleum imports.

“Synthetic fuel is the only vision I can see right now to really become CO2 neutral in the conceivable future,” Deutsche Lufthansa AG Chief Executive Officer Carsten Spohr told a conference on sustainable aviation in the German capital in November. The German flag carrier is working with the consortium to supply what it expects will be five per cent of its fuel within five years. The non-fossil kerosene is being made at closely held Klesch Group’s Heide oil refinery near the North Sea, using renewable energy supplied by local wind farms.