Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is the umbrella term for all aviation fuels that are produced without the use of fossil energy sources. Various production processes exist, and different feedstocks are available. From the Lufthansa Group's perspective, they are essential for the energy transition in aviation. The SAF currently used by the Lufthansa Group is produced from biogenic residual materials, for example from used cooking oils. For years, the Lufthansa Group has been one of the largest purchasers of SAF and has secured SAF for a quarter of a billion US dollars in order to be able to meet the foreseeable increase in demand in the coming years.
However, the amount of SAF currently available on the global market is not yet sufficient to use large quantities in flight operations, and the price of SAF is significantly higher than that of fossil kerosene. The Lufthansa Group is therefore active in numerous projects to drive market ramp-up and thus the availability of SAF.
The Lufthansa Group is involved in several projects to accelerate the development and industrialization of the next generation of SAF.
The Power-to-Liquid technology
The Power-to-Liquid technology (PtL) uses renewably generated electricity, water and CO₂ (from the atmosphere or industry) to create a synthetic crude oil that can be processed into kerosene. The Lufthansa Group is a partner and pilot customer of one of the world's first plants for the production of PtL crude oil in Werlte, Germany, which opened in October 2021. The crude oil is ultimately processed by a refinery into eFuel for aviation. The plant is operated by the climate protection organization atmosfair. Over the next five years, the Lufthansa Group will purchase at least 25,000 liters of PtL fuel annually and make it available to clients.
Furthermore, the Lufthansa Group and SWISS have concluded a strategic collaboration with ETH Zurich spinoff Synhelion to bring solar aviation fuel to market. Synhelion is a pioneer in the production of SAF from renewable energy sources. The unique procedure uses concentrated solar heat to manufacture syngas which can then be synthesized into kerosene using standard industrial processes. This Sun-to-Liquid fuel (StL) closes the fuel carbon cycle: when combusted, it will only produce as much CO2 as went into its manufacture.
Synhelion will build the world’s first-ever facility for the industrial production of solar fuel in Jülich (Germany) in 2022. Lufthansa Group Airline SWISS is set to become the first customer for the solar kerosene in 2023. Under the collaboration concluded, SWISS and the Lufthansa Group will support the development of Synhelion’s planned commercial fuel production facility in Spain, too.
The Lufthansa Group has been intensively involved in researching, testing and using SAF and in 2011 pioneered the world's first long-term testing of SAF in regular flight operations. The project was accompanied by detailed emission measurements and research into production processes and biomass availability. Lufthansa demonstrated at that time that SAF can be used in flight operations without any problems and that no infrastructure adaptation is necessary. Later, the company became involved in basic research on the mixing behavior of alternative and conventional kerosene.