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Electricity-based fuels - also known as power-to-liquid fuels (PtL) - not only have the potential to save large amounts of CO2, they are also said to have a positive influence on so-called non-CO2 effects. These include the emission of nitrogen oxides, soot particles and water vapor. In aviation, the climate impact of these non-CO2 effects is even significantly greater than the climate impact of the CO2 released. For example, soot particles and water vapor can cause condensation trails in the atmosphere, which have an additional warming effect. Electricity-based fuels also offer a special advantage in this context: the so-called fuel design. This means that the chemical composition of these fuels can be optimized in such a way that no soot or particulate matter is produced during the combustion process, for example.

World's largest research facility

The Power-to-Liquid Fuels (TPP) technology platform, which is currently being built by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Leuna, Saxony-Anhalt, should also be seen in this context. The research and demonstration facility, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport Affairs (BMDV), is the only one of its kind in the world in terms of shape and size. The project focuses on technologies and large-scale processes to produce electricity-based fuels on an industrial scale in the near future. On October 16, 2023, DLR presented the plans for the plant in Leuna, which is to be built from 2024 on an almost five-hectare site at the Leuna chemical site, together with around 100 jobs in the areas of construction, plant operation and research.

Researching what is feasible

The technology platform will consist of two plant strands that build on each other: In the research strand - with a planned capacity of 100 tons per year - DLR will work together with science and industry to further develop innovative technologies and test new approaches to improve production processes and fuel properties. It will also investigate how electricity-based fuels can also be produced on the basis of "green" methanol.

Realizing the feasible

The focus of the demonstration strand is on the campaign operation of a semi-industrial plant for the production of electricity-based fuels. The capacity is expected to be up to 10,000 tons per year. This would currently make the TPP the world's largest research facility in the field of electricity-based fuels. The researchers are using the demonstration line to investigate how production processes can be scaled up to a semi-industrial level as efficiently as possible and how operating parameters can be optimized.

Strengthening Germany as a technology and business location

"Air transport is indispensable in a free and globalized world. That is why electricity-based fuels are an important building block in making the mobility of the future more climate and environmentally friendly. With the TPP, DLR will develop and demonstrate the necessary technologies together with renowned industrial companies and research institutions in order to lay the foundations for industrial production. This will create unique know-how that will further strengthen Germany as a technology and business location," said DLR Executive Board Chairwoman Prof. Dr. Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla at the event in Leuna.

Optimal conditions for the market ramp-up

Daniela Kluckert, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Digital and Transport Affairs, added: "With the technology platform for power-to-liquid fuels funded by the BMDV, the world's largest research facility for the production of PtL fuels is being built in Leuna - at a location with a great industrial tradition in the heart of Germany. This is not only a distinction for the region, but also for Germany as a science and business location as a whole. We want to lead the way internationally and create optimal conditions for the market ramp-up of electricity-based fuels. The new research facility will make a decisive contribution to the development and application of technologies for the industrial production of electricity-based fuels. The establishment of the technology platform is an important milestone on the way to sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility."