Decarbonisation is one of the biggest challenges faced by aviation, and the pathway to net-zero emissions will take innovation, collaboration and legislation. Find out how Shell is continually working with its industry partners to significantly scale sustainable aviation fuel.
Synthetic kerosene – the future of aviation?
As the aviation sector seeks to decarbonise and reduce emissions, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) has a key role to play but requires bold action from airlines, fuel providers, and policymakers in order to reach the necessary scale. One challenge the industry faces is finding more ways to make SAF at commercial scale using different feedstocks and processes. Therefore, we are proud to share a breakthrough from Shell Aviation that shows the feasibility of an innovative, lower-carbon pathway for making SAF.
In May 2020 Shell accepted a BHAG challenge (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management to produce an amount of sustainable synthetic kerosene beyond labatory scale at the Shell Technology Centre Amsterdam.
What started with an innovative industry challenge, ended with the world’s first flight using certified, synthetic kerosene made from hydrogen and recycled carbon. Synthetic fuel is not new, as we have been producing it for decades with the help of fossil resources.
Watch: Synthetic kerosene – the future of aviation?
Title: Synthetic kerosene. The future?
Duration: 1:41 minutes
In the Shell Technology Center Amsterdam, a large team rose to the challenge to produce a cleaner type of kerosene. The result is a synthetic kerosene made out of CO2, water and green energie which can be mixed with regular kerosene.
SHELL BHAG animation Transcript
Audio track: Futuristic Technology
[audio] Audio track starts.
00:00:00 --> 00:00:03
[text] Synthetic kerosene. The future?
00:00:03 --> 00:00:04
[video] A plane moves over the text from left to right, cutting to the next scene.
00:00:04 --> 00:00:11
[video] Five planes fly in frame. The frame then moves on to a plane on the ground that is being refuelled by a Shell truck.
[voice-over]Flight… transports us and the products we need, powered by kerosene, a fossil fuel.
00:00:11 --> 00:00:13
[video] A man appears in a bubble above the plane and rubs his chin.
[voice-over] But can we fly and emit less?
00:00:13 --> 00:00:19
[video] The man is writing some chemical formulas on a whiteboard with a drawing of the Shell Technology Center Amsterdam building. A woman stands in front of chemical equipment full of test tubes with liquids in it. Another man is standing in front of a computer. One by one a lightbulb appears and disappears above their heads.
[voice-over] Shell accepted the challenge to make synthetic kerosene from green hydrogen and CO2.
00:00:19 --> 00:00:27
[video] The frame switches to a windmill that stands on the left side of a building. Solar panels can be seen on top of the building. On the right side of the building is an electrolyser the inside of which can be seen. Lines indicate that the windmill and the solar panels provide energy to the electrolyser. The process inside the electrolyser can be seen. In the bottom right, H2O flows into the electrolyser via a tube. The electricity in the water creates gas formation H2 on the left and gas formation O2 on the right.
[voice-over] We created renewable solar and wind power and used an electrolyser to create green hydrogen.
00:00:27 --> 00:00:31
[video] The frame switches to an illustration of a refinery and a biogas plant with livestock in front. A Shell tanker drives past underneath both. A tube from the biogas plant connects to the tanker to shows that the CO2 is being collected.
[voice-over] We captured CO2 from our Pernis refinery...
00:00:31 --> 00:00:35
[video] On the right side of the refinery a farm appears with a silo next to it and two cows in front of it. The tanker continues to drive under the farm and here too a tube is extended to show that the CO2 of the farm is collected in the tanker.
[voice-over] ...and from the biogas plant of a Frisian dairy farmer.
00:00:37 --> 00:00:43
[video] The camera switches to a cross-section of the Shell Technology Center Amsterdam where we see a number of installations. A yellow line animates around the oven, a pop-up appears with the formula CO2 + H2.
[text] CO2 + H2
[voice-over] Back in the lab at Shell Technology Centre Amsterdam, we mixed the CO2 and the green hydrogen…
00:00:43 --> 00:00:48
[video] The installation text to the oven shows a popup with the formula CO + H2.
[text] CO + H2
[voice-over] to create a gas mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen.
00:00:48 --> 00:00:54
[video] The last installation next to it is circled in yellow. There is a tap on it where wax drips out of a tank into a receptacle. A popup appears with text in it.
[text] Fischer-Tropsch Wax
[voice-over] Using Fischer-Tropsch technology, we converted this mixture into synthetic wax.
00:00:54 --> 00:01:07
[video] The frame moves down, where we see the tube with wax running through an installation. A man sits in front of two screens showing molecules pass by on the left screen. A pop-up shows a zoomed-in version of the molecules showing where they are cut. On the right screen, a bottle of detergent, a bottle of coolant and a kerosene barrel appear consecutively. Liquid continues to pass through various machines, collecting in a barrel at the end which has an icon for synthetic kerosene on it.
[voice-over] We then used a special device to “cut” the wax into tiny molecules which can be used as “building blocks” for liquid products like detergent, coolant and synthetic kerosene.
00:01:07 --> 00:01:22
[video] The frame switches to a Shell tanker, showing the inside. In front of the tanker is the barrel with synthetic kerosene which is pumped into the tanker and mixed inside with liquid already in there. A popup appears indicating that up to 50% synthetic kerosene goes in. There is already conventional kerosene in the tanker, indicated by a pop-up with that text.
[text] Synthetische kerosene. Max 50%
[voice-over] Planes are not yet allowed to fly on 100 percent synthetic kerosene, the maximum permitted is 50 percent. So, we blended our synthetic kerosene with conventional kerosene.
00:01:22 --> 00:01:35
[video] The frame switches to the sky where we see 4 planes flying. 1 aircraft is marked with a different color and has a pop-up attached to it with the same icon for synthetic kerosene that appears on the barrel.
[voice-over] And then what? Then we took to the air... for the very first flight on certified synthetic kerosene, made from CO2, water and renewable energy. Experiment successful.
00:01:35 --> 00:01:41
[beeld] White screen with Shell logo and www.shell.com
[audio] Audio is ended with Shell mnemomic sound on piano.
It is a small but important step towards increasing the supply of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). A challenge that can only be overcome if all parties work together.
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