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How Twelve Makes Jet Fuel Without Oil

Our technology makes sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) from CO2, water and renewable energy through the power of electrochemistry.


Jet Fuel Made from Air Not Oil

The aviation industry uses almost 100 billion gallons of jet fuel each year, and emits almost 1 billion tons of CO2 annually, representing 2-3% of global CO2 emissions. With demand for jet fuel to continue to grow, adopting sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is critical for decarbonizing aviation. While there are a few ways to to make SAF, Twelve makes Power-to-Liquid SAF, or eSAF, from CO2 and renewable energy through electrochemical production. E-Jet® SAF has up to 90% lower lifecycle emissions than conventional jet fuel, without the land and water use that other SAF require.

How CO2 Becomes Jet Fuel

Alvin Leung, Manager, Senior Engineer, Stack Testing at Twelve explains how The Opus™ System transforms CO2 into sustainable aviation fuel:

"The Opus™ System is our carbon transformation technology that uses water, CO2, and electricity to produce CO.

The CO is then combined with H2, electrolyzed via water electrolysis, to make synthesis gas, a combination of CO and H2, often referred to as syngas. The Syngas is sent through a Fischer–Tropsch process which converts it into liquid hydrocarbons. This resulting mix of hydrocarbons resembles crude oil produced conventionally, which can then be processed in many different ways. 

Downstream from the Opus system is the hydrocracker, which will be tuned to yield as much jet fuel as possible, but as with conventional refining, it will yield other molecules as well, like naphtha. The great news is that naphtha is a versatile chemical in our supply chain - it’s often used as feedstocks to make other products like the foam in our sofas and running shoes, and the polymers in our headphones and sunglasses.

I work with the CO2 electrolyzer that takes water, CO2, and electricity to produce CO. Just like a typical water electrolyzer, the anode of our CO2 electrolyzer pulls electrons from the H20 to create gas phase oxygen (which leaves the anode in the water) and hydrogen ions (H+). The hydrogen ions conduct across our proton exchange membrane (PEM) to the cathode.

The cathode is where the real magic happens: it mixes CO2 with the electrons pulled from the anode, water and the hydrogen ion to create CO and water. Our reaction is not 100% efficient so we do end up creating some hydrogen (which isn't terrible since we need H2 to make syngas).  We measure our efficiency with a parameter called Normalized Faradaic Yield CO (NFY_CO).

Ideally, we would put in just enough CO2 to fully convert to CO, but in reality we input more CO2 than is required for the reaction so we end up with some CO2 that exits from the  cathode with the CO and the H2. It’s a closed system, so no CO2 is emitted! We measure how little CO2 is required by a value called CO2 to CO Utilization. All of our electrochemical work and stack design is about making this system last longer with higher NFY_CO and higher CO2 to CO Utilization.

I think what excites me the most about the Opus system is the capability to make a major impact on climate change. We are a first of its kind company that is able to transform CO2 to CO, which is a core building block of jet fuel and many other products we use on a daily basis. So seeing that first hand and being able to run all these tests in person is really exciting."



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