The atmosfair fairfuel standard

atmosfair fairfuel is a label for power-to-liquid (PtL) – e-kerosene for aviation. e-kerosene is refined from synthetic crude oil into Jet A1 fuel for commercial use. The crude oil is produced using electricity in synthesis processes from the raw materials CO2 and water. e-kerosene can be used in the existing aviation infrastructure without having to modify either the infrastructure or the aircraft. This means that e-kerosene has the potential to solve aviation’s CO2 problem permanently and in enough time to meet the Paris climate targets. To harness this potential, the resolute use of PtL technology is needed to mitigate climate change – this is ensured by the atmosfair fairfuel standard.

What then remains are the non-CO2 emissions from aviation, which contribute significantly to global warming and which are initially only reduced by e-kerosene, but not eliminated. Optimised flight routes can help reduce these emissions in the long run [1] but this is not covered by the fairfuel standard.

Criteria / award:atmosfair
Form:Voluntary additional standard
For:E-kerosene producers
Audit:TÜV or other technical auditors
Criteria:Additional green electricity, non-fossil CO2 sources, water, ESG for Global South
Scope:Validation of the plant, certification of the quantity and quality of the crude oil and e-kerosene
atmosfair fairfuel – label for e-kerosene

Restricted to aviation

Due to the large amount of energy required to produce PtL products and the initially low production volumes, the atmosfair fairfuel standard limits e-fuels to e-kerosene and its use in aviation (medium- and long-haul) as there is currently no alternative. atmosfair fairfuel may not be used on for cars and trucks.

The primary goal: decarbonisation of aviation

The atmosfair fairfuel criteria ensure that the potential greenhouse gas reductions offered by e-kerosene are maximised – through the use of non-fossil, mainly biological CO2 sources similar to waste. e-kerosene plants certified under the fairfuel standard must also increasingly use direct air capture (DAC) systems to supply CO2 so that they can become completely independent of all biogenic and residue sources in the long term. There are also requirements related to additionality and regionality for the renewable electricity sources used, which support the energy transition and do not compete with it.

CO2

Reliable CO2 sources are non-fossil and similar to waste. The sources are broken down into four categories (direct air capture, sustainable, partially sustainable, not sustainable). Filtering CO2 from the air (direct air capture, DAC) is the best source in this process. How the sources are assessed also depends on the environmental impact of the upstream chain and excludes, for example, certain substrates in biogas plants, such as farmed biomass with maize. If climate-friendly alternatives are available, such as steel production with green hydrogen, coal-based steel production is out of the question as a source. The Silver standard of the fairfuel label, however, allows e.g. CO2 from cement production as a temporary transitional solution.

If CO2 from fossil sources is used, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by a maximum of 50% because the CO2 is now used at least “twice” compared to the purely fossil status quo (see scenario 1). However, fossil CO2 from the earth continues to be released into the atmosphere (see scenario 2), which will make it impossible to reach the climate targets. With DAC or biogenic CO2, on the other hand, a CO2 cycle can be achieved in the short term (scenario 3) as atmospheric CO2 is extracted from the atmosphere by means of plants or technology and then processed to become e-kerosene. This is the only scenario where no fossil CO2 is used for the production of e-kerosene and released into the atmosphere. The atmosfair fairfuel standard thus derives the fairfuel criteria from this scenario.

Electricity

The electricity purchased for the PtL plant must not be at the expense of the energy transition and the Paris climate targets, with decarbonisation envisaged as part of the process. This is why, for atmosfair fairfuel, electricity must not only be 100% renewable, but also “additional”. This means

  • financial additionality, i.e. no subsidies such as those under the German Renewable Energies Act (Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz – EEG),
  • initiation additionality, i.e. the development of new electricity sources or the maintenance of unprofitable post-EEG plants, as well as
  • additionality through long-term direct power purchase agreements (PPAs) with e.g. the wind farm operators and ultimately regionality.

Regionality and system serviceability: The power sources must be located within 150 km of the PtL plant. In addition, the e-kerosene plant must be able to lower the power when controlled by the grid operator in order to reduce pressure on the grid if necessary.

For locations in non-EU countries, the PtL plant operator must provide electricity to the local population in addition to the e-kerosene plant, if required, at socially compatible prices.

Economic viability and feasibility, market ramp-up

Although atmosfair criteria require stepped up effort from plant operators when it comes to planning, they do not automatically result in higher costs. On the contrary, in the long term the costs can be lower relative to other scenarios if the availability of CO2 and electricity as the main resources in the fairfuel option also means becoming less dependent on external risk factors and being able to guarantee continuous plant operation.

The bottom line is that the fairfuel criteria can often be worthwhile financially speaking. In addition, the atmosfair Silver certificate keeps the entry barriers low. Overall, these criteria will not jeopardise the market ramp-up of PtL kerosene in the foreseeable future.

Sufficient CO2 sources available for aviation

In addition to environmental standards, the sustainability of PtL also involves paying attention to the economic side. In addition to the costs already mentioned, it must be ensured that the CO2 sources permitted by this standard are available in sufficient quantities.

As a result, atmosfair has calculated the CO2 needed for PtL production for global air transport and compared this to the available quantities from sources in categories A and B (sustainable and partially sustainable) of this standard. It was shown that there are sufficient waste CO2 sources available today worldwide, with a focus on waste biomass, to fully supply global aviation with sustainable PtL. The faster aviation grows in the future, the quicker we need to transition to direct air capture. The atmosfair criteria combine the need to shift quickly to DAC in environmental terms with the economic necessity of using sufficiently secure CO2 sources for the necessary market ramp-up of e-kerosene.

More information on the atmosfair fairfuel standard

[1] To learn more about the impact of e-kerosene on the non-CO2 effects of aviation and the importance for climate change mitigation, see the separate atmosfair paper “Cleaner air travel with e-kerosene?