The aviation sector must work hard to reduce CO2 emissions. One way is to replace fossil petroleum with sustainable jet fuel. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research is working with partners on the development of aviation fuel components, made from lignin from residual streams such as residual wood and tomato stalks.
For shorter flights, electricity appears to be a viable alternative to petroleum in the near future. But longer flights will remain dependent on liquid fuel for some time, it is expected.
Nevertheless, lignin expert Richard Gosselink from Wageningen Food & Biobased Research sees interesting opportunities to make aviation fuel more sustainable: “Lignin fractions in bio-based waste streams contain components that can replace fossil components in petroleum. We just need to upgrade these components to make them suitable for use in sustainable aviation fuel. “
The necessary steps for this are developed in the TKI project Lignin2jetfuel. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research works together with raw material suppliers (Renewi Nederland BV and the Swedish Sekab Biofuels & Chemicals), TU Eindhoven spin-off Vertoro BV, Q8 Research & Technology and the colleague knowledge institute TU Eindhoven. “Renewi supplies leftover wood and tomato stems. Sekab works with sawdust as residual power from the paper industry and carpentry factories with bioethanol and lignin as residual. And Vertoro can process both woody biomass and lignin. In their process, the remaining tree and tomato stems dissolve in alcohol, from which lignin oil is created. It is the most important faction that we will continue to work with at Eindhoven University of Technology. “
Cyclic compounds from lignin
Gosselink and his colleagues will convert the lignin from the biomass into cyclic compounds, also known as cycloalkanes, via catalytic conversion. Colleagues in Eindhoven are also testing new catalysts and process conditions to make the desired cyclic compounds from the lignin fraction. Another important consortium partner is Q8Research. To support the ambition to further develop into a sustainable mobility player, this R & D department of Q8 wants an alternative to fossil fuels and invests in the development of new future-oriented technology. “Q8Research provides the final step in the process: improving the quality of bio-based fuel components using hydrogen treatment,” explains Gosselink.
2050: CO2 emissions halved
The project is in line with the International Civil Aviation Organization and the EU to halve CO2 emissions from the aviation sector by 2050. The goal of this project is to have developed a proof of concept at TRL level 3 or 4 by 2025. This is expected to provide an important contribution to the development of sustainable fuels based on woody residues.
A technical-economic analysis of the market opportunities is part of Wageningen’s work package, as is a life cycle analysis to see if the intended environmental goals are achieved. “Our job as a sustainable mobility player is to develop and sell bio-based products to help our customers around the world reduce their CO2 footprint. The use of all kinds of sustainable raw materials is crucial. This project is one of the initiatives we takes to help achieve the climate ambition for 2050, ”said Maarten Van Haute, Alternative Fuels Officer at Q8Research.
Gosselink is positive about this: “We expect a significant positive effect in terms of CO2 reduction. If we look at the development of a comparable technology for fuels from recycled frying fat, the cost aspect also looks positive. We will definitely have to take steps after this project, with a pilot as the next step. But the bio-based residual raw materials can be made available in large quantities, and the reactors for making the bio-components are already there. ”
This project is supported by RVO under project number TIND221009.