News from Department of Energy Technology

New consortium to commercialise the production of sustainable fuels for aircraft and ships

A consortium with 17 partners from Denmark and other European countries receives more than DKK 30 million from Innovation Fund Denmark to bring the production of sustainable fuels for aircraft and ships to the stage of commercialisation.

“As part of the green transition, it is important to take advantage of our opportunity to use biowaste and residual biomass to produce sustainable fuel, not least for those parts of the transport sector that are not easily electrified. We see great potential in technology and are proud to be part of a consortium that covers the entire value chain, which is crucial for the success of both technological and market breakthroughs. COWI sees itself as a natural player that contributes to the sector, coupling and integrating every link in the value chain,” says Jeppe Grue, Technical Director, COWI.

The basic technology, hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL), is being demonstrated in Norway, and the project builds on this by focusing on the refining processes themselves and the finished fuels.

The project focuses on heavy transport

Heavy traffic, and especially aviation and shipping, is one of the areas that face the greatest challenges in creating significant CO2 reductions that contribute to meeting national, as well as EU and global goals.

Sustainable fuels have been identified as a possible solution to this, and therefore, the consortium focuses on the technical and economic challenges of producing and marketing sustainable fuels for both sectors. The goal is for the project to provide technical data, business models and implementation scenarios for a range of value chains, ranging from input materials in the form of organic household waste and agricultural residues to the finished and ready-to-market fuels, and including quantified GHG reductions and sector coupling, especially the exploitation of green hydrogen and circular exploitation of resources.

“We see a potential in developing technology to process HTL oils into fuels on the Danish market. We have recently been certified to be able to refine bio-oil products, and this is an exciting new step,” says Technology Manager, Kristen Kristensen at the Shell Refinery in Fredericia.

Different fuel markets each have their challenges

Aircraft and marine fuels are very different, and although both can be produced based on HTL bio-oil, the technical path to market is very different, meaning that the refining processes must be optimised for each. For aviation fuel, there is a complex certification procedure to ensure that the new fuels are safe to fly with, and therefore, aviation fuel requires a relatively high degree of refining and analysis to ensure that it complies with a wide range of technical parameters. On the other hand, ship fuel does not require such a high degree of refining, but a number of quality requirements are still set for engines and fuel systems to be able to handle the new fuel. For both types of fuels, the project will carry out tests in the relevant engine technologies - jet engine and diesel engine - to demonstrate the fuels’ viability in practice.

The consortium covers the entire value chain

Steeper Energy ApS, which is in the process of building the world’s first HTL plant in Norway to produce bio- oil at scale from residual fractions from forestry, is participating as a technology supplier in the project.

Access to the plant in Norway means that large quantities of HTL bio-oil can be used in the project, which has so far been a bottleneck in the development of the technology.

“Steeper Energy has extensive experience with HTL technology, which in our version is called Hydrofaction®, and is already involved in a major demonstration project in Norway. Steeper Energy also works with refining the oil produced from the Hydrofaction® process. The aim of the collaboration is to establish the overall value chain, which is therefore of crucial importance for the future success of Steeper Energy as a technology supplier,” says Steen Iversen, Technical Director, Steeper Energy ApS.

Aalborg University, which has recently demonstrated a “prototype jet fuel” from wastewater sludge, participates as a knowledge partner and host of a big HTL pilot plant operated in collaboration with Steeper Energy ApS that can convert wastewater sludge, wood residues and organic household waste into bio- crude oil. COWI brings extensive knowledge about the technical challenges of the green transition and links the Power-to-X area to the project. Two foreign partners, DLR (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt) from Germany and IFP Energies Nouvelles from France, participate with expert knowledge of the unique challenges of obtaining alternative fuels for aviation. In the field of marine fuel, Alfa Laval provides expert knowledge and advanced test facilities for testing fuels.

In addition to the technical partners, the consortium also has the participation of the ports of Aalborg and Aarhus, and Greenfuelhub (Switzerland) and AP Møller-Maersk in the marine fuel area, as well as the West Danish airports - Aalborg Airport, Aarhus Airport and Billund Airport - and fuel logistics partners, DCC & Shell Aviation Denmark and SkyNRG (Netherlands) in the jet fuel area. SkyNRG also brings extensive knowledge and experience of pricing mechanisms for sustainable fuels into the consortium. With the participation of Energy Cluster Denmark for dissemination and networking, the entire value chain is represented in the consortium, and it is possible to work purposefully with scenarios and new business models within production and distribution of sustainable fuels for both the maritime sector and aviation and to ensure these contribute quantitatively to the Danish climate goals.

“There is huge potential in developing sustainable fuel for the transport industry”, says Glenda Napier, CEO of Energy Cluster Denmark. “First, it’s about identifying the technological challenges and barriers in getting the technologies to market, and then to overcome those barriers through innovation projects that deliver concrete results. We are looking forward to tackling this task, and not least to disseminating the results from the project so that we can raise funding to get the solutions out to the market,”

Fact Box

  • Project name: Low Carbon fuels for aviation and marine markets Project acronym: LowCarbFuels.dk
  • Grant giver: Innovation Fund Denmark, Grand Solutions Project period: 01.02.2021 - 31.1.2025
  • Overall budget: DKK 42.9 million
  • Amount of support from IFD: DKK 30.75 million

Project consortium

Steeper Energy ApS (Denmark), COWI A/S (Denmark), Aalborg University (Denmark), Aalborg Airport (Denmark), Aarhus Airport (Denmark), Billund Airport (Denmark), DCC & Shell Aviation Denmark (Denmark), Aalborg Harbour (Denmark), Aarhus Harbour (Denmark), Alfa Laval A/S (Denmark), A/S Dansk Shell, AP Møller-Maersk (Denmark), Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR, Germany) , IFP Energie Nouvelles (France), Greenfuelhub (Switzerland), SkyNRG (Netherlands) and Energy Cluster Denmark.

Contact info

Project leader: Preben Birr-Pedersen, +45 3144 2915, preben@birr.dk

Aalborg Universitet, Head of Department, Lasse Rosendahl, +45 2145 1114, lar@et.aau.dk

Pictures: Colourbox

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