e-Fuel is “the missing link”
We all know the climate crisis can’t be solved by one person, one company, or one country alone. That is why four companies have joined forces to play their part.
“To tackle the climate crisis, we need to successfully achieve a full energy transition, including all industries and parts of society. And e-Fuel is a missing link in our new energy mix. We need energy in concentrated form to be used in modes of transportation such as aviation and trucks. In many cases, there are no other renewable alternatives than e-Fuels,” Carl Berninghausen, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Norsk e-Fuel and Co-Founder of Sunfire, explains.
“With the highly innovative high-temperature SOEC electrolyzer and the state-of-the-art alkaline electrolyzer, we at Sunfire are developing critical technology components to produce e-Fuels via the Power-to-Liquid pathway. But we knew that to bring them to scale and make them truly renewable, we needed other partners. Therefore, we founded Norsk e-Fuel together with Climeworks, Paul Wurth/SMS group and Valinor,” says Berninghausen.
Christoph Gebald, the CEO and Founder of Climeworks, agrees and underlines this: “What one company cannot achieve alone, four strong partners can do together”.
“The consortium unites world-class crucial know-how, proprietary technology and extensive experience in renewable fuels synthesis and Climeworks is proud to be part of this consortium.” Gebald continues.
Independent of industrialized location
Climeworks has developed a technology that captures carbon dioxide directly from the air (Direct Air Capture or DAC), which gives Norsk e-Fuel an edge. While CO2 together with water and electricity are the main ingredients to the production, CO2 captured from the air allows Norsk e-Fuel to create a truly renewable fuel.
“Climeworks provides an infinite, sustainable source of carbon dioxide from the air, thereby closing the carbon cycle and creating a truly circular fuels economy,” says Gebald.
“Our direct air capture plants require only a small surface area and are location-independent; plants can be built anywhere where there is cheap, clean energy available – something Norway provides in ample amounts,” he continues.
DAC enables Norsk e-Fuel hence to be independent of industrialized locations. Although CO2 from emitting point sources might be readily available in industrial zones, the overall electricity need at those locations is usually higher – and therefore the prices would also be higher.
“Energy prices are the main cost driver for e-Fuels. Low cost of electricity is more important than access to maybe cheaper carbon dioxide from industrial point sources,” Carl Berninghausen of Sunfire says.
The combination of technology is “first of its kind”
Together with the pioneers, Paul Wurth contributes with its vast expertise in industrial engineering and plant construction to bring all the technology elements together.
“The combination of technology is first-of-its-kind, and we look forward to ending up with a blueprint plant and scaling-up the production,” says Frank Wagener, CFO of Paul Wurth and Region Europe at SMS group.
Wagener explains that the Paris climate agreement and the business opportunities resulting therefrom were the clear drivers for Paul Wurth to step into the consortium. “We wanted to do something with competent partners and have found this in the consortium, with Valinor and its local connections, Sunfire and its electrolyzer technology, and Climeworks with its direct air capture technology. All partners have clear and complementary roles.”
The fourth partner, Valinor, is a Norwegian family-owned investment company with expertise in the renewable energy sector and sustainable investments.
“The idea behind Norsk e-Fuel is to make the aviation and transportation industry more sustainable. For Valinor, it’s also important that we are industry builders in Norway,” says Pål Selboe Valseth, the CEO of Valinor. “We are honored to be part of this consortium with excellent partners and of such a big establishment in Norway.”
Norsk e-Fuel aims to start construction of the first plant in Mosjøen next year and production of aviation fuel in 2024.
“Our goal is that renewable becomes leading, but for airliners to make sustainable choices, we need to use the existing infrastructure. Airplanes need to land and take off again and don’t have time to recharge batteries. The technology isn’t there yet regarding weight – the batteries are too heavy. The last thing is the regulatory process. Aviation is one of our most regulated industries, with long testing periods,” says Valseth.
“That is why we need e-Fuel. The infrastructure is already there,” he emphasizes.
“Despite electrification efforts in the mobility sector, experts are still convinced that by 2050 a large portion of long-haul transportation will rely on hydrocarbons,” says Christoph Gebald of Climeworks. “Whereas emissions reductions might be possible through electrification or hydrogen to some extent in the long-term, there are no short- and mid-term alternatives to hydrocarbon fuels such as diesel and kerosene for long haul road transport, shipping and commercial aviation.”
Frank Wagener from Paul Wurth/SMS group also notes how e-Fuel will contribute to the evolution of aviation.
“The jet engine used in airplanes was invented over 70 years ago and has been perfected since then. We can continue to benefit from this now optimized jet technology by producing an e-Fuel that can be used in these energy-efficient engines. We would then save on massive investments in the infrastructure and supply chain necessary for the operation of aircraft,” says Wagener.
A contribution to fighting the climate crisis
Mr. Berninghausen, the Chairman of Sunfire and Norsk e-Fuel, dismisses questions about competitors. “This is not the time for competition, but cooperation. We are open for cooperation, also with industries that are looking to reduce their emissions. The large oil & gas companies will probably join us when we have established our first plant, and we are open for business. The industrial heavyweights have money and infrastructure, but they are slower – so it’s no surprise that we will take the lead.”
“The idea to do something good and responsible, which at the same time is good business, is a great concept. But more than that, I see the climate crisis as a big threat for our planet – and my children and their children. Our exploitation of fossil resources can´t go on forever. The biggest impact is not higher energy prices, but the looming threat of the chaos and disruption of the climate crisis.”
“I will be happy to say that I have tried to contribute to fighting this problem and making the world a better place.”