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August 29, 2023

Fuelling net-zero aviation with SkyNRG

Aviation is on a mission to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. That means switching to sustainable fuels, not just in the medium to long term, but now. Our technology creates sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) that can power existing jet engines. And SkyNRG has put our know-how at the heart of its plans for one of the world’s first dedicated SAF production facilities.

 Aviation currently produces 2-3% of global CO2 emissions, and if it carries on as it is, that figure could reach 20% by 2050. Instead, the industry wants to reach net zero by then. Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is vital to reaching that target because its emissions are up to 85% lower over the lifecycle of the fuel compared to fossil fuel. And today’s jet engines can use it now and without any adaptations. So it offers a strong immediate solution during the decades it will take to develop and scale up new technologies.

Turning waste into thrust
SkyNRG is among the leaders in developing SAF and is behind Europe’s first facility devoted solely to producing it. Our HydroFlex technology is at the heart of these plans, turning feedstocks like biogenic oils into fuel.

SkyNRG’s plant at Delfzijl in the Netherlands is set to start production in 2027. It will produce 100,000 tons of SAF per year, removing 250,000 tons of CO2 compared to similar volume of fossil-based fuel. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is onboard as its key customer.

Embracing a new challenge
SkyNRG’s facility is unique because it will produce only SAF, rather than SAF being a by-product of renewable diesel. ‘No one else has done this. It’s first of a kind in Europe, and Topsoe has been willing to embrace the challenge, be innovative and work with us to find a novel approach to maximise SAF output,’ SkyNRG CEO Philippe Lacamp explains.

The waste oils we’re working with are very low-quality and would usually go for incineration, but we treat them before introducing them to Topsoe’s HydroFlex technology. We’ve worked with Topsoe to get to a process giving excellent SAF yields. That has made this facility possible.

HydroFlex™ is Topsoe’s tried-and-tested technology for hydrotreating renewable feedstocks. We tailor unit design and catalyst selection to the specific demands of the refinery business, resulting in high-grade jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline. Not only do these fuels meet international standards, but they are ally fully compatible with modern combustion and jet engines and can be blended safely with regular fuels.

Defining a large-scale vision
SkyNRG’s eyes are already on higher-capacity SAF plants to produce millions of tons of SAF per year by 2040. Again, Topsoe expertise is at the heart of these plans as we work with SkyNRG on new combinations of technologies and feedstocks beyond waste oils.

For the next many years, SAF will grow and be deployed on a global scale as it can be delivered to aircraft with the same infrastructure and supply chain. ‘For the coming decades SAF will play a vital role in the decarbonization of the aviation industry. The main advantage of SAF is that it is a drop-in fuel that can be used in existing planes and infrastructure,’ Philippe explains.

Topsoe is such an important partner for us. The only way we defossilize the industry fast enough is with world-leading companies like them joining us in finding the best combination of feedstock and technology.

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