LUFTHANSA CARGO and freight forwarding giant Kuehne + Nagel (K + N) have cemented their commitment to the development of power-to-liquid (PtL) technology to propel the de-carbonisation of global airfreight by deploying a B777 freighter emblazoned with a special green message, writes Thelma Etim.

One of the European carrier’s freighters with the registration D-ALFK took off for the first time to South Korea’s Seoul airport with a new ‘Flying into the Future CO2-neutral Power-to-Liquid Sustainable Aviation Fuel’ livery inscription on 14 April 2022.

The PtL concept is based on the conversion of renewable energy to liquid fuels and chemicals such as methanol, oxymethylene ether (OME), ammonia and Fischer-Tropsch products which predominantly refer to liquid hydrocarbon fuels, and the process is commonly known at gas-to-liquid (GTL).

These liquids offer the high energy density that is required for aircraft, ships and other applications with a high-power demand and the need to serve long distances, notes a report from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE).

Oxygenated fuels based on methanol, such as OME and degradable Dimethyl ether (DME), a colourless highly flammable gas at ambient conditions, but can be handled as a liquid when lightly pressurised, has properties similar to those of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). They are attracting increasing interest as they offer improved combustion properties that could help to reduce local emissions.

“An essential pre-condition for PtL is the availability of hydrogen or synthesis gas that has a very low carbon dioxide (CO2) footprint. If this is fulfilled, the well-to-wheel CO2 emissions of PtL products can be reduced by 90 per cent as compared with the fossil benchmark,” says the report.

“PtL fuels and chemicals are needed to meet the targets of the UN Paris Agreement on climate change,” the Institute’s report points out. “Long-distance transport and worldwide trade of PtL products are a vital component for the ongoing integration of renewable electricity into the energy system and industries.”

The green partnership between K + N and Lufthansa Cargo, which was formed in 2021, has seen the two entities jointly commit to purchasing the equivalent of 20 tonnes, or 25,000 litres annually of synthetic crude oil from a production site at Werlte/Emsland, Germany, which is operated by the Bonn-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) atmosfair.

The first quantities of crude oil are to be produced this year and utilised as synthetic fuel in aviation, according to the statement.

Dorothea von Boxberg, chief executive of Lufthansa Cargo, underscores: “We are very pleased to now also visibly express our joint commitment and to publicise it with the help of the global deployment of our freighter.

“A successful and sustainable transformation of airfreight can only succeed if we join forces with strong partners – which is why we are very proud to have Kuehne + Nagel at our side as a supporter of this forward-looking technology,” she adds.

Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) can be produced in various ways. To date, Lufthansa Cargo and K + N have utilised SAF of bio-genic origin, such as synthetic kerosene based on used cooking oils, for example.

Yngve Ruud, a member of the management board of K + N who is responsible for air logistics, points out: “With the new B777 freighter D-ALFK in Kuehne + Nagel’s livery, we are sending a strong signal of our company’s commitment to sustainable airfreight. We are already seeing a great deal of interest from our customers who want to avoid the carbon emissions of their shipments worldwide and the synthetic SAF project with Lufthansa Cargo is of utmost importance for our joint mission of CO2-neutral aviation.”

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