TotalEnergies joins Masdar and Siemens Energy in sustainable aviation fuel project

The three companies will build a green hydrogen pilot plant in Abu Dhabi to offer cleaner solutions

ABU DHABI - 16JAN2011 - Knowledge centre at Masdar City in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

TotalEnergies is joining Germany's Siemens Energy on a Masdar-led initiative to produce sustainable aviation fuel from green hydrogen as the UAE offers cleaner solutions to help the global aviation sector to reduce its carbon footprint.

The three companies will develop a pilot plant that will be based in Masdar City in the UAE capital.

The project will enter the front-end engineering and design stage later this year and is expected to start operations by the "middle of this decade", Siemens Energy chief executive Christian Bruch told The National.

“We are discussing with partners to take it forward because it is obviously now important to get into the realisation mode,” he said.

“We are about to take the next steps, which means getting into the conceptual engineering [stage] and preparing the ground for an investment decision.”

Last year, Masdar, the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, Siemens Energy, Marubeni Corporation, Etihad Airways and the Lufthansa Group signed a preliminary agreement for the demonstrator plant initiative.

In the first phase, the project partners will focus on the production of green hydrogen for passenger cars and buses in Masdar City. They will also build a plant to convert the majority of the green hydrogen into sustainable aviation fuel.

At a later stage, the pilot programme will explore the production of decarbonised fuels for the maritime sector.

The Masdar-led initiative is expected to reduce the UAE’s carbon footprint, create domestic demand for sustainable fuels and establish a local knowledge and industry base for their production, Siemens Energy said at the time.

Since January 2021, the project partners have completed a range of evaluations on technology suppliers and feasibility studies while working closely with regulators on compliance issues.

TotalEnergies brings expertise in the production, offtake and supply of sustainable aviation fuel to partner airlines, which will help the pilot programme to move forward.

The French oil company would be a "great addition to the team" and the inclusion of an international oil company “brings nicely together producers, technology companies [and] consumers”, Mr Bruch said.

Last July, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) called on governments and oil companies to redirect their focus and invest more in sustainable aviation fuels to help the airline industry meet its environmental goals.

Higher production could lower the price of sustainable aviation fuels as airlines around the world push to cut their carbon footprint, Iata director general Willie Walsh said at the time.

In September 2021, about 60 companies in the aviation sector pledged to increase the share of sustainable aviation fuel in the industry to 10 per cent by 2030 in an effort to help the world to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

Companies such as Shell, Airbus, Bank of America, Boeing, American Airlines, British Airways, Heathrow Airport, Iberia, TotalEnergies and Visa are among the 60 signatories to the pledge to drive the use of sustainable aviation fuel.

“The aviation companies will have no [option] but to go down this road in the next few years to come if they really want to substantially decarbonise,” Mr Bruch said.

We are discussing with partners to take it forward because it is obviously now important to get into the realisation mode
Christian Bruch, chief executive of Siemens Energy

Siemens Energy, which was spun off from industrial conglomerate Siemens, is jointly exploring options with Mubadala Investment Company to drive investment into the development of advanced technology and the production of green hydrogen and synthetic fuel.

The demonstrator plant in Masdar City is part of that broader pact and the two partners are looking at other projects beyond the UAE market, Mr Bruch said.

Siemens Energy is also a partner in a Dh50 million ($13.62m), 300-kilowatt green hydrogen pilot project with the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) and Expo 2020 Dubai.

The plant is located at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the site of the UAE's biggest solar plant.

The pilot project is intended to demonstrate how hydrogen can be produced from solar power and how it can be stored.

The German company is also exploring opportunities in Egypt, where it is developing a hydrogen centre.

"In Egypt, we are thinking of a pilot or prototyping installation ... in the range of 100 megawatts," Jochen Eickholt, executive board member at Siemens Energy, told The National in December.

Updated: January 20, 2022, 8:09 AM