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Talking to Adelbert Goede, DIFFER, NL (August 2019)

About Adelbert Goede

Adelbert Goede was trained as a plasma physicist and conducted the initial DIFFER CO2 plasma dissociation experiments in 2012 in collaboration with the University of Stuttgart. In 1988 he initiated and led the Earth Observation Division at the Dutch Space Research Organisation and was Co-PI of the satellite instrument SCIAMACHY on board the ESA Envisat, monitoring greenhouse gases in the Earth atmosphere from its vantage point in space. This produced an invaluable data set over the years 2002-2012 showing the spatial and temporal distribution of greenhouse gases in the Earth atmosphere. By that time it became abundantly clear that the Earth climate was changing. Rather than monitoring atmospheric change to unfold, in 2006 he choose to return to his original field of energy research, working at the solution rather than the problem of climate change. During the period 1975-1988 he was responsible for the physics, development, procurement, commissioning and first operation of a subsystem of JET, the world leading European nuclear fusion project promising a future energy source with no CO2 emission. From 1992 onward he managed a number of ESA and EC projects and held/holds various national and European board positions, including Fusion for Energy Executive Committee (2007-2011), Kopernikus Advisory Board (2016- present) and EERA JP Chemical Energy Storage chair (2015-present), lectured at SIF-EPS International Energy School in 2014 and 2017, is fellow of the European Physical Society where he led the Environmental Physics Division from 2002 to 2009, is member of the Optical Society of America, was editor of the Netherlands Physics bulletin (1988-1998) and the Euro Physics News (2009-2013) and is presently Advisor to the Director of DIFFER, the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research of the Netherlands.

Role in the project: coordinator


1-How did the idea of KEROGREEN emerge?

When airlines advertise their cheap flights to London, Lyon or Lisbon you may be enticed. When out of season food is on sale in the supermarket you may not think twice. Yet, the CO2 footprint of airfreighted food is 100 times bigger than that of shipping, whilst travelling by rail to above EU cities emits no CO2 at all, when powered by renewable electricity. Aviation has become prolific to all layers of society. Sadly, a sustainable solution is hard to come by. Why not electrify planes? Some experiments have started, but payload and range are limited. In order to power an Airbus 380, a 14.000 ton battery would be needed to replace the equivalent energy contained in the 250 ton design kerosene payload of the A380. The plane would never take off. Hydrogen, even when liquefied, is 3 to 4 times more voluminous than kerosene. It would require a complete redesign of the aircraft fuel hold system. Subsequent qualification will take many years. Current EC policy, therefore, is directed at biofuels. Daily consumption of kerosene, however, is a staggering 5M barrels a day. Biofuels, inevitably, will run into the Food vs. Fuel and Food vs. Flora trilemma. The prospect of a sustainable biofuel solution seems pretty dim. Fortunately, a third way has emerged and that is CO2 neutral kerosene, synthesised from air and water, powered by renewable electricity. This is the KEROGREEN idea developed in 2016 with an initial proposal to the EU.

2-Within the KEROGREEN project you are the coordinator. What are your main tasks as a coordinator?  

My main task is interface management, interface to the EU INEA, to the Work Package leaders, the Steering Committee, the Advisory board and the Management Team itself, carrying out project control and financial control. The MT has 3 weekly teleconferences, the work package leaders meet every 3 months.

3-What is the technical role of the Partners in the project?

DIFFER develops the plasma source for the splitting of CO2, whilst VITO develops the subsequent perovskite membranes for oxygen separation, Cerpotech provides the membrane materials and HyGear integrates into a gas separator unit. HyGear also builds the CO purifier. KIT analyses possible chemical pathways and develops the Water Gas Shift reactor and the Hydrocracker. The advanced Fischer-Tropsch reactor for kerosene synthesis is INTERATEC responsibility. INERATEC also integrates all individual modules into a self-contained, container-sized unit.

4-What are the advantages of the solutions proposed by KEROGREEN?

Our goal is to have a prototype reactor of the size of a sea container ready by 2022 which produces 100 gram kerosene per day. The above scheme is expected to produce higher energy efficiency and higher kerosene yield, necessary for upscaling to production capacity. Kerosene produced from CO2 sucked out of the air is not only climate neutral, also air pollution is very much reduced, because synthetic kerosene contains no Sulphur and hence emits no Sulphur, produces less or no soot as it contains no aromatic compounds and NOx emissions are reduced by tuning combustion engine temperature. Synthetic kerosene would meet ever tighter air pollution standards.

5-How will the results of the KEROGREEN project be used?

There is considerable interest from many layers of society. Obviously, airports, airliners and aircraft companies have shown interest into the project results . But also Companies who want to make their business travel more sustainable are very keen to engage with our project. The KEROGREEN Advisory Board engages members of Chemical Industry, including LINDE and Brightlands and SkyNRG, a bio-kerosene trading company.

6-According to your opinion, how long would it take to implement the project’s expected results within a company? Do you think that the KEROGREEN approach will be easily adopted by the kerosene production industry and in the aviation sector?

Four years to lift a technology out of the laboratory phase into the real world is very short indeed. In order to ensure efficient project management we work with a team of 6 international partners that are geographically within easy reach. Each partner has a well-defined task and clear deliverables. In the first two years work is at sub-system level. In the third year system integration takes place at the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology. After three and a half year a critical review will decide whether the reactor is indeed ready for kerosene production tests that exceeds laboratory scale experiment.

7- What is unique about the project or what makes this project special for you?

Unique to this project are the plasma activated CO2 splitting, electro-chemically interacting with solid oxygen membranes for oxygen separation and the integration of all sub-systems into a container sized module sized to the scale of present day wind turbines and solar arrays for onsite conversion of electricity into fuel.

Special to this project is the alternative route to sustainable aviation fuel that is based on existing Internal Combustion Engine technology and existing infrastructure for storage, transport and distribution of aviation fuel. The main challenge is upscaling the kerosene production capacity to the level required for aviation.

On a different tack, renewable energy needs to be stored at large scale and for long periods of time in order to cope with the intermittency of supply and to overcome the seasonal mismatch between renewable energy supply and demand. Special of this project is the conversion of renewable electricity into the energy contained in the chemical bonds of hydro-carbons that would deliver such energy storage system.

As renewable electricity sources are often sited at remote locations like off-shore wind farms or desert sited solar arrays, it will become necessary to generate the fuel onsite and to transport inshore to place of use by inexpensive pipe lines rather than expensive electric power lines. This will also improve reliability of the energy system as dependency on electricity supply will be reduced as will be the risk of single point failure in the energy system.

Equally important for the overall scheme is the capture of CO2 directly from air in order to render the fuel cycle CO2 neutral. This requires a novel capture and regeneration technology which is another aspect of the sustainable kerosene challenge. Such integrated system has recently been proposed by a Dutch consortium for implementation at the North Sea. This region, bordering on the densely populated North European countries, is a show case project for the dramatic energy transition projected over the 2050 time span. Direct air capture of CO2 not only produces CO2 neutral hydrocarbon based fuel. Pushed further it also reduces the CO2 content of the atmosphere. Negative carbon emission is an essential ingredient in most IPCC scenarios in order to meet the climate targets at the end of this century set by the UNFCCC Paris agreement of 2015.


Looking forward to these developments! Thank you Adelbert.