Zero enters ‘landmark’ synthetic fuel deal with Rolls-Royce

UK-based energy company Zero (also known as Zero Petroleum) will work alongside Rolls-Royce to demonstrate Zero synthetic fuels (synfuels) on a range of different Rolls-Royce engines for aviation, marine and defence use.

The global engineering giant will use Zero’s range of synfuels – which includes gasoline, diesel and jet fuel – to reduce carbon emissions associated with fossil fuels.

Data gathered from engine testing during the collaboration will be used to prove the credentials required to achieve international fuel certification standards.

Founded by Formula One technical legend Paddy Lowe in 2020, Zero achieved the Guinness World Records title of ‘first aircraft powered by synthetic fuel’ just a year later.

Taking place in late 2021, the flight saw Zero join forces with the Royal Air Force (RAF) to complete the world’s first flight using 100% Net Zero synfuel.

Enthusing about the company’s partnership with Rolls-Royce, Lowe said, “We are thrilled to be working with one of the world’s most innovative and forward-thinking engineering companies in a combined quest to accelerate the energy transition.”

Paddy Lowe of Zero Petroleum and Dave Gordon of Rolls-Royce

“The world is facing increasingly urgent demands for fossil fuel alternatives, and it is vital for all companies to develop the solutions to achieve this. We could not consider a better engine partner than Rolls-Royce with whom to meet this challenge head-on.”

Earlier this year the company reached another milestone with the opening of its synfuel production facility Plant Zero.1.

The first-of-its-kind plant will see the company produce carbon-neutral synfuels capable of being used in existing engines as a 100% drop-in replacement to polluting fossil fuels across all industries and sectors.

To create the fuel, the facility will harness the power of direct air capture (DAC) to extract carbon from the air, electrolysis to turn water into hydrogen and the company’s proprietary DirectFT technology that uses unique catalysts to make the synfuels.

“In this building we will pioneer the transition to a circular economy in fuels and materials delivering a paradigm shift in world energy from fossil to synthetic,” said Lowe at the facility’s launch in June.

The company’s latest partnership also aligns with Rolls-Royce’s decarbonisation strategy, which has outlined its plan to become a Net Zero carbon company across its value chain by 2050 at the latest.

Zero Petroleum’s DirectFT technology

In the strategy, the company revealed that it has committed to ensuring that all its in-production commercial aero engines are compatible with 100% SAFs by this year.

“Zero is at the cutting-edge of the synthetic fuel industry and we have been extremely impressed by their rapid progress in the short time they have been in existence; we are confident their team can continue that impressive trajectory,” said Dave Gordon, Senior Vice President – UK Defence at Rolls-Royce.

“We look forward to a long partnership between Rolls-Royce and Zero to develop and demonstrate the future of sustainable energy across our wide range of complex power & propulsion solutions as we leave the fossil fuel era behind us.”

A circular carbon-neutral energy supply

Lowe elaborated on the philosophy behind Zero’s SAF technology back in 2021 when he spoke to gasworld during an exclusive webinar, focusing on the circular nature of the fuel’s production.

“We can create petroleum in a circular manner, rather than in a linear manner drawn from finite reserves, through synthesis,” he explained. “Creating synthetic petroleum will complete the circle.”

By no longer increasing the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, Lowe believes that the way that waste is perceived will begin to change.

“As we move into a circular world, the word ‘waste’ may start to lose meaning because we’ve become part of a cycle. One person’s waste becomes another person’s material.”

“I think in a thousand years time they will look back on this period in human history as very much a transition in which fossil fuels were a kind of boot strap, a windfall that allowed us to elevate ourselves to a sustainable and circular system, that enables us to sustain ourselves in balance – and in balance with nature.”

Read more:Zero Petroleum and the immediate role of synthetic fuels in sustainable energy

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