South African chemicals and energy company Sasol signed, on Wednesday, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with German aircraft manufacturer Deutsche Aircraft, on developing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) technology. The MoU is specifically focused on the development of technologies for green hydrogen-based ‘power-to-liquids’ (PtL) SAF production. (PtL refers to the use of green energy sources to produce SAF.)
"We are extremely excited about the partnership with Deutsche Aircraft as we take a holistic approach to climate-neutral aviation by looking at the whole value chain from fuel production up to aircraft system level,” affirmed Sasol ecoFT senior VP Helge Sachs. “Joining forces between aircraft manufacturers and fuel producers is vital, if we want to ensure that aviation becomes sustainable, while ensuring the highest possible safety standards."
Sasol is the world leader in Fischer-Tropsch technology, originally developed in Germany to produce liquid fuels from coal. The proposed PtL SAF would be chemically similar to Sasol’s coal-to-liquids products, with which the South African group has decades of experience, not least in producing them at industrial scales. The SAF would likely be produced using carbon dioxide, taken from the atmosphere, and green hydrogen. In addition to developing the technology for, and the production of, this SAF, the two companies would work together to achieve its certification, both for use in blends and for use on its own, to fuel aircraft.
Deutsche Aircraft is the type certificate holder (and thus has original equipment manufacturer status) for what was the Dornier 328 (originally 32-seat) twin-turboprop regional airliner and the D328-300 Jet, a development of the original turboprop design but powered by turbofan engines. Deutsche Aircraft provides full parts and service support for these types, significant numbers of both of which are still being flown around the world.
But it is also developing and planning the manufacture of the D328eco, which, while it will externally be very similar to the original D328, will be in many ways a new design, optimised as a green aviation platform, with a lengthened fuselage, new cabin design, new engines (intended for use with 100% SAF), improved undercarriage, new avionics and a new cockpit capable of being operated by a single pilot.
"Sasol ecoFT and Deutsche Aircraft stand at the beginning of a decarbonisation journey,” pointed out Deutsche Aircraft CEO Dave Jackson. “We both have products originally designed in the age of fossil fuels. Together we can develop rapid solutions to combat climate change by improving our products while building on our heritage and expertise."