To make renewable fuels the new standard in aviation, that is the mission of SkyNRG. The Amsterdam-based company has been building for a decade, but about five years ago the idea of building Europe's first sustainable kerosene plant was born. Since 2017, a project team from SkyNRG has been working to make this innovative concept a reality. Meanwhile, the choice for the plant location fell on Delfzijl. This also paved the way for funding from NOM. Kasper Spitzen of SkyNRG (Team DSL Commercial & Investments) talks about the plans for the plant and the cooperation with the NOM.
100% sustainable biofuels
"Our goal is for aviation to start using sustainable fuels as much as possible. We call these fuels SAF for short, which stands for Sustainable Aviation Fuels," Kasper Spitzen says. " SkyNRG' s business model is to source, blend, sell and deliver SAF, but we are also looking at future technologies and ways to sell our fuel directly to corporate customers, through Board Now. We have now delivered to about 30 airlines worldwide. Until now, we did that using fuels we source elsewhere. However, the market for renewable kerosene is growing tremendously. To meet the increasing demand, the idea arose to start producing our own SAF."
The market is currently dominated by fossil aviation fuels. These have high CO2 emissions and are therefore very bad for the environment. "For cars, there is now an electric alternative. But we won't see electric aircraft for the next 20 to 30 years, at least not on a large scale," Spitzen says. "We will eventually need a mix of solutions, but for now SAF is the only way to significantly reduce the CO2 footprint." The biofuel that SkyNRG will produce will be made from waste and residual streams, including used frying fat. "Because the raw materials we use get a second life, you avoid additional CO2 emissions. We also do not use non-sustainable raw materials such as soybean oil or palm oil. Everything we do has to be 100% sustainable."
Delfzijl offers right dynamics
Kasper Spitzen, along with five colleagues, forms the DSL-01 project team, which researches, prepares and eventually commissions the construction of the plant. Choices must be made regarding design, technology and raw materials, as well as suppliers, location and funding. "It's a learning process," Spitzen said. "And NOM was also able to help us with that, especially in the beginning. They have a lot of experience with innovations and are an expert discussion partner."
The choice of Delfzijl is one of the reasons why SkyNRG ended up with NOM. "It's a bit of a chicken-or-egg story," Spitzen explains. "When Delfzijl came into the picture as a possible location, the first thing we did was talk to the Province of Groningen. They quickly referred us to the NOM as a discussion and possible funding partner. The presence of a party like NOM certainly played a part in our choice of location, and on the other hand, we wouldn't have ended up with NOM if we hadn't chosen Northern Netherlands."
There were, of course, other reasons for choosing Delfzijl. "We knew right away that it had to be a port area with sufficient space. However, the dynamics, the business climate, the sharing of utilities and the innovative mindset in the region were the deciding factors. A great deal is already happening at the Delfzijl chemical park in terms of sustainable developments. For example, there are plans for the production of green hydrogen, which we also want to use at the plant. SkyNRG is still a relatively small party but one with ambitious plans. It just feels really good and logical to be among like-minded people."
NOM is a true sparring partner
NOM offers early-stage funding for innovations that are still in the design or proof-of-concept phase. In this phase, it is often difficult to find funding. This is also SkyNRG's experience. Spitzen: "Because we do not yet have collateral, we cannot take out a loan from a bank in this phase. An investment from NOM was therefore an attractive solution. And because an experienced party like NOM wanted to invest in our innovation, it became easier to attract other financiers in addition. NOM does thorough research before deciding to invest and that creates trust."
"We experience the cooperation with NOM as very pleasant and valuable. NOM is not only an investor, but also a real sparring partner. Investing is their core expertise and therefore they have a lot of knowledge and experience. The people from NOM really sit next to you at the table instead of opposite you. They are also involved in thinking about the content of the project, the opportunities and risks and carrying out feasibility studies. Of course NOM is critical, and we may not always agree with each other, but in the end that only improves the product. Even if NOM does not invest itself, they can help your company well on its way."
First factory is just the beginning
Meanwhile, the plant is in the design phase and the permit application is being prepared. This will be followed by the funding process for the actual construction of the plant. Europe's first SAF plant should be a reality by 2023.
If it is up to SkyNRG, this is just the beginning: "Eventually we want to set up a network of factories in different countries. Because with just one plant we obviously cannot meet the global demand for SAF. Innovation is also important to us, so we are also looking at 'future fuels,' or the feedstock-technology combinations of tomorrow. So there are plenty of challenges to keep us busy in the coming years; in any case, we see a large market for sustainable aviation fuels."
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