We interviewed Oskar Meijerink from SkyNRG. We talked about their plans for the future, current projects like Synkero and their latest addition Zenid Fuels. Furthermore, we talked about how the market for Sustainable Aviation Fuels might develop.
What is the origin and the aim of SkyNRG?
SkyNRG energy is a Dutch company based in Amsterdam and we were founded a good 10 years ago, almost 11. We were founded with the aim of developing the market for Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). At the time, 10 years ago, there was no SAF used in aviation. There was no certification and there were no production facilities producing the product. Boeing, KLM and other airlines were involved from the start, the real pioneering work. In those pioneering years we delivered SAF for the first commercial flight with KLM in 2011 and supplied to over 30 airlines on all continents to prove it was technically feasible and sustainable when the right feedstocks were used.
What was or is the biggest hurdle to overcome?
This definitely still is the price premium that exists over fossil fuels. We put a lot of effort in making what we call innovative co-funding programs. An example of such a program is BoardNow, where corporates pay a premium for their business travel to fly on SAF. With these we can enable new production capacity projects, like DSL-01, the corporate can allocate the CO2 savings to their corporate travel and become more sustainable. Microsoft and PWC are examples of companies that joined that program.
What activities are you involved in as SkyNRG?
Although we don’t develop our own technologies, or IP, we have since the beginning of the company always been involved in the development of these new production pathways by partnering with technology providers. In 2016, we realized that there was not enough production capacity, so we started developing our own facilities. DSL-01 is our first, the facility will be built in the North of the Netherlands based on the HEFA technology. This technology can convert waste oils into Sustainable Aviation Fuels. For this we are using the technology of Haldor Topsoe. Besides this initial plant, we are involved in pre-commercial development projects (e.g. bio-based technologies or synthetic SAF based on CO2 as a feedstock), this is what we call ‘Future Fuels’. I am the team lead for this Future Fuels team.
What are the options for the aviation industry to become carbon neutral?
We believe in the full slate of options: the most logical one is of course less flying, using trains for shorter distances. We are very supportive of the development of electrical aviation and maybe even hydrogen planes, however we recognize the time it takes in this industry to develop new aircraft. Therefore, a sustainable alternative to Jet fuel is important, SAF, within SAF we see a couple of pathways running in parallel, the first is based on waste oils and the HEFA technology, this is by far the most proven pathway and will fill in the majority of the demand in the next ten years. The second, parallel to that, are the biomass-based pathways These can for example be the pyrolysis or HTL pathways based on straw or forestry residues. The third track is what we know as the synthetic fuels pathway, e-fuels or power to liquids. A very promising pathway based on CO2 and green H2, this pathway needs development but can be very scalable in the future.
What are the main and biggest projects that you undertake in the synthetic fuels area?
We are, in the Netherlands, engaged in two projects, SynKero and Zenid. We announced both projects on the high-level event hosted by the ministry of I&W on the 8th of February.
Zenid is a project once started by Climeworks together with Rotterdam-The Hague airport. In this project we’re looking at converting CO2 from the air into SAF. We are, together with partners (a.o. Uniper), developing a demonstration facility to prove that it can be done technically. We’re using the Climeworks Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology together with Sunfire’s SCO electrolysis technology to convert CO2 and water to a SynGas (CO and H2). Then we use INERATEC’s Fischer-Tropsch systems to go from syngas to hydrocarbons and then eventually by upgrading produce SAF. The technologies have been proven before, but not in an integrated setup like this. The scale of Zenid is between 1,000 – 4,000 tons of CO2 per year. This results in about 250 to 1,000 tons of jet fuel. For Zenid, we aim to start engineering in 2022 and hopefully be operational in 2024.
With Synkero (see video) it’s somewhat different. Earlier this year we started together with Schiphol, KLM, Port of Amsterdam and SkyNRG, Synkero B.V.. This dedicated entity and teamwas started with the goal to develop a commercial facility making SAF from CO2 from the industry. The goal is to eventually produce 50.000 tons of SAF. Synkero is currently in the pre-engineering phase and we aim to be operational in 2027.
How do you overcome a lock-in effect at the CO2 source, which you’re using to make the Synfuels?
That is a very relevant question, we should carefully select and identify the potential sources of CO2. There are a lot of point-sources still available, so it could make sense to use these without at the same time creating a lock-in effect. To make an example, CO2 from a coal-fired power plant doesn’t make any sense because we’re then capturing CO2 from a unit that’s producing electricity while we then need renewable electricity to convert that CO2 to a product, that renewable electricity could have better been used to shut down the coal-fired power plant. However, when you have an ethanol facility or a waste incinerator which also emit significant CO2, including CO2 with a biogenic origin it makes a lot of sense as these facilities will be necessary and are so-call ‘unavoidable’ towards the future. Other options could be hard to decarbonize industries like steel or cement. In this case, allocation of CO2 is very important, as you want to avoid any form of double counting on the savings and want to make sure these industries don’t create a license to operate without becoming more sustainable itself. This is also a matter of EU regulations, which is currently being drafted within the European Commission.
What do you see as the main challenges to overcome it in the market for SAF?
To overcome the price premium, it would help when legislation comes into practice. We have seen a very successful adoption of renewable fuels in the road transport sector under the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). Aviation is not yet obligated within this legislation, currently discussions are ongoing in national and EU wide politics to create such a SAF blending obligation. This will create a market and enables new production capacity projects to develop. It’s important that the targets set by the EC should be realistic but ambitious I believe the policymakers understand this and are heading in the right direction
What would you like to discuss with our community?
I think what is now being discussed a lot in this field is how you can allocate the CO2 savings. Do you allocate the carbon savings to the supply or the demand side or do both get 50% of the savings? As you cannot obviously claim the CO2 twice. Although this is already being discussed on an EU level, it’s important that a community like CO2 Smart Use thinks about this and forms an opinion on this topic to enable new projects in a sustainable way.
We’d like to interview more inspiring organizations working to grow the CCU economy. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.