New study on Manganese promotion presented at South African catalysis conference

New study on Manganese promotion presented at South African catalysis conference

Cooperation between Sasol and the University of Cape Town brings new insights on the use of manganese to improve selectivity and overall activity in FTS

During the annual CATSA conference on 13-16th November 2022 in Drakensburg, South Africa, Sasol’s Vincent Vermaak will present a joint paper with the Catalysis Institute at the University of Cape Town on “Lift-off to sustainable aviation fuels: Optimization of Fischer-Tropsch performance with Manganese promotion”. CATSA annual conferences are one of the most popular series of conferences in South Africa, in the field of catalysis, which brings together experts from across the world to discuss, disseminate information and share ideas on advancing the field of catalysis. The conferences have now grown to well over 250 people with increased international participation. The study presented is part of the initial phase of the CARE-O-SENE consortium between South African and German industrial and institutional partners towards a decarbonised future and aimed to i) review and consolidate the prevailing view on the role on Manganese promotion based on past studies and ii) investigate the impact of and optimize the Manganese loading for selectivity and activity. The addition of a small amount of Manganese improves long-chain hydrocarbon selectivity and overall activity by facilitating oxygen removal from the surface, and/or reducing cobalt particle size. Manganese is also an interesting choice due to more than 70% of the known global reserves finding their origin in South Africa. Vincent joined Sasol in February 2022 as part of the Scientist in Training (SIT) program. In previous years, Vincent has worked at Sasol twice as a student, among other things, researching in catalyst development for hydrogenation.

Vincent Vermaak is a Scientist in Training (SIT) at Sasol. Before joining Sasol in February 2022 to purse his Scientist career, he obtained his doctor’s degree in Chemistry at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa. During his studies, Vincent worked at Sasol twice, researching in catalyst development for hydrogenation as well as for the Innovation Management department. One of Vincent’s main goals is helping to improve the way of living in a community through research. Part of that goal are his study and contributions to the CARE-O-SENE consortium between Germany and South Africa.

Change NOW

Change NOW

How CARE-O-SENE contributes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Under the motto"Together for just, ambitious implementation NOW" the United Nations will meet for the Climate Change Conference in Sharm ash-Shaykh, Egypt, from November 7th to 18th, 2022. Seven years earlier, the 193 member states met to prepare for the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development, they unanimously adopted the so-called Sustainable Development Goals 2030 - also known as the 2030 Agenda.The 17 goals are intended to ensure global sustainable development on an ecological, social and economic level.

Among the goals is SDG 13, according to which immediate action must be taken to combat climate change and its impact. But how can such measures be implemented, for example in sectors for which there is no optimal alternative to fossil fuels so far?

With 2.14 million tonnes of CO2emissions for domestic flights in Germany alone (2019),[1] the aviation sector is one of the major greenhouse gas emitters. At the same time, aviation will continue to rely on jet fuel as an energy source in the long term. This is why sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) are of particular importance as an alternative: they are considered forward-looking for sustainable and decarbonised aviation and thus directly contribute to SDG 13. But at present SAF cannot yet sufficiently meet global jet fuel demand. The reasons for this are, for example, the availability of green electricity and hydrogen, suitable market conditions and appropriate facilities for production on an industrial scale. Innovations are therefore needed in this area, which make an important contribution to achieving the sustainability goals. One of these is the recently launched CARE-O-SENE research project. For the linchpin of CARE-O-SENE research is to develop and optimise catalysts that are needed for the mass production of SAF Through CARE-O-SENE, climate protection goals can be achieved despite the continued high demand for transport.

Supported by economy and politics, the seven German and South African project partners are also building long-term, strategic cooperation partnerships. This is precisely what SDG 17 also aims to do by building global partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. CARE-O-SENE brings together various international companies and institutes and creates a comprehensive knowledge and technology transfer between industry and science. These partnerships will also play an important role in the development of future projects in the field of green hydrogen use. This is because the project is an important part of the German "National Hydrogen Strategy" and the first hydrogen project in which a worldwide problem is being tackled in a global cooperation. In this lighthouse project, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) all project partners are contributing their expertise in the development, testing and commercialisation of catalysts, building knowledge and working together on a global challenge.

[1]   Calculations from surveys by the Federal Environment Agency and the German Aerospace Centre:

Strong partnership: German Ambassador visits Sasol Operations in Sasolburg

Strong partnership: German Ambassador visits Sasol Operations in Sasolburg

Germany and South Africa continue their international exchange in the development of sustainable aviation fuels.

Johannesburg, South Africa, 26 October 2022 – Sasol Operations welcomed German Ambassador to South Africa, H.E. Andreas Peschke, in Sasolburg. His visit is a further part of the partnership between Germany and South Africa to decarbonise the aviation sector within the framework of the CARE-O-SENE project. The aim of the project is to develop novel Fischer-Tropsch catalysts needed for the production of sustainable aviation fuel on an industrial scale.

Recently, Germany provided 30 million euros for the research project through the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). In addition, the industrial consortium partners are contributing 10 million euros.

Ambassador Peschke explains: "The CARE-O-SENE project, which was symbolically launched by the South African President and the German Chancellor on 24 May, is our largest cooperation project with a significant investment by the German government. The use of renewable kerosene in aviation is an important building block on the way to a green and clean future."

"Testing of the CARE-O-SENE catalyst will take place in Sasolburg, where our company's history also began more than 70 years ago," adds Fleetwood Grobler, president and CEO of Sasol. "With our expertise in Fischer-Tropsch technology and catalysts, we are the ideal partner to help decarbonise the aviation sector and make it sustainable for the long term."

Said Fischer-Tropsch catalysts are used to accelerate chemical reactions, increase yields and improve the quality of refinery products. The new generation catalysts are expected to increase the kerosene yield of the process to over 80 percent, optimising the use of resources. The technology will enable the production of sustainable products, which are increasingly in demand in a low-carbon world.

Sustainable kerosene - so-called Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) - is not based on fossil raw materials like conventional kerosene, but on green hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The technology contributes significantly to sustainably decarbonising sectors such as aviation, as fossil fuels are particularly difficult to replace in this area. For more information on CARE-O-SENE, Fischer-Tropsch catalysts and sustainable aviation fuels, please visit our FAQ page..

“The market itself will push this issue” – Interview with Tobias Sontheimer and Dirk Schär

“The market itself will push this issue”

Interview with Tobias Sontheimer and Dirk Schär

In the research consortium CARE-O-SENE, scientists are looking for more efficient ways to produce synthetic kerosene for use in aviation. We interviewed Tobias Sontheimer of HZB and Dirk Schär of the participating company Sasol about what has to be done, what obstacles there are, and how aviation can be decarbonised.

Dr. Sontheimer, the project CARE-O-SENE is set to run until 2025. Considering how ambitious the goals are, that’s not really a lot of time, is it?

Tobias Sontheimer: (Laughs) You’re right, it isn’t. But in the current situation, we can’t afford to settle for innovation cycles that will last 10 to 20 years. We need to be on a fast track to success.

What makes you so confident it will be a success?

TS: The consortium was established to bring the market leader in Fischer–Tropsch technology together with world-leading research institutes. At our institute alone, for example, we currently have 40 to 50 people working on this topic – and we are going at full steam.

Dirk Schär: We are working on many tasks simultaneously: there is an analytical component to this project, there are experts who are dealing with sustainability issues, and there are those who are already thinking about how to roll out the technology quickly. These are all individual gears that mesh together precisely. If even one of them were missing, the project wouldn’t succeed.

Fischer–Tropsch technology, which is at the heart of the process, is not exactly new.

DS: That’s true. In fact, our company has been working in this field for seventy years. In South Africa, where our headquarters are, there is a lot of coal, and Fischer–Tropsch technology has long been used to produce liquid fuels from it. “Coal to liquid” is what we call this, and “gas to liquid” then came along later. Now we want to take the next step. Synthetic fuels should no longer be produced from coal or gas, but rather from carbon dioxide, obtained as a by-product of cement production, for example, or extracted directly from the air.

How exactly does it all work?

TS: In Fischer–Tropsch technology, you convert a starting material – coal, gas or, as argued, carbon dioxide – into a synthetic gas. You can then convert this synthetic gas into different raw materials. One example is synthetic kerosene, which is what our project is all about.

DS: The Fischer–Tropsch method is agnostic to the source of carbon, as we like to say. So, you can use all kinds of starting materials. But the process does require a lot of energy.

TS: That is exactly where we come in. A key piece of the process is the catalyst, whose efficiency we want to increase. This’s what we are working on at the synchrotron source BESSY II. We want to gain an understanding of the material properties of the catalyst at the microscopic level.

That sounds rather abstract.

TS: We are X-raying catalysts as they are being used, in operando, so that we can find out exactly how they are involved in the process. This information is crucial, in turn, for developing catalyst materials into something more advanced. We are pursuing many routes and have several materials in view, ranging from one catalyst that is already quite at an advanced developmental stage to another that promises to achieve even greater efficiency, but which still needs a lot of development. One long-term goal could be to move away from powder catalysts, as are currently used, and towards thin-film compositions that require less material. At the same time, we have to ensure that the production technology can be upscaled in principle – so that it can be used on the targeted large scale.

How much of an efficiency gain do you expect for the production of synthetic kerosene?

DS: We are sure that we can achieve a process yield of greater than 80 percent. That is about a 30 percent improvement over the current capacities.

What would such a novel type of kerosene mean for aviation?

DS: Blends already exist, although the fixed quotas of the EU are quite low and focus on other technologies, on biogenic kerosene. But the EU does have a roadmap, in which it envisages that the admixture should increase continuously, and that non-biogenic kerosene should also be added. Just to give an idea: blends of 5 percent are still envisaged for 2030, but towards 2050, 63 percent of blended kerosene ought to be produced synthetically.

Can today’s aircraft already fly on synthetic fuel alone?

TS: Yes, from a purely technical point of view, that’s not a problem at all. But there are regulatory obstacles: currently, only a maximum of five percent is allowed.

The goal on the horizon for many researchers is to decarbonise aviation. Are synthetic fuels just a transitional technology until we have battery-powered electric aircraft or ones with turbines that run on hydrogen?

DS: I guess you’re drawing parallels from road traffic?

Exactly. On roads, combustion engines are seen as obsolete models that are gradually being replaced – predominantly by electric vehicles.

TS: Well, aviation can’t really be compared to that, and the answer depends entirely on the field of application of an aircraft. Whether it’s for long, medium or short-haul flights, for example, or how many passengers it has to carry. And, because of this, there are many simultaneous developments in research, all aimed at sustainable flying, and all of them have their justification. For short-haul flights, there are other means of transport competing with aviation.

DS: A battery for a medium or long-haul flight that can power an aircraft engine would weigh many tons. You would have to fly it back and forth the entire time as dead weight, whereas conventional aircraft become lighter as they fly because the kerosene gets used up. The primary discussion in aviation is not so much about whether we use internal combustion engines or not, but more about the most efficient way of getting an aircraft from point A to point B.

How much does the new synthetic kerosene cost compared to conventional fuel?

DS: It costs several times more at the moment. But that’s no different from many other green technologies, which also have the same problem that they can only become established through predefined quotas. But we are doing research precisely so that we can make production more efficient and thus get the prices to come down.

Let’s take another look at your project. In the target year 2025…

DS: … we want to have developed a catalyst to the point where we can upscale it.

That means the catalyst can’t be used yet?

TS: In our project, we cover the production of everything from just a few micrograms of catalyst material to a full tonne. So that is already a first step towards commercialisation.

DS: But we at Sasol, alone, produce many thousands of tonnes of catalysts per year. The things we are developing in CARE-O-SENE need to be designed in a way that existing production facilities can be adapted to them.

Now that we have looked at the technical and the economic side, what is the situation on the regulatory side? Are they already prepared to approve synthetic kerosene for regular operation?

DS: From what I see, the quotas that the EU stipulates are based on production capacities. There would be no point in stipulating a 30 percent admixture right now if it turns out we won’t have the capacities for it within the next few years. This is precisely why the blending quotas are still quite conservative; they first want to make sure that sufficient production capacities can even be created in Europe. But we are not fazed by that: we can already tell that people will commit voluntarily to blending quotas above those prescribed, and so the market itself will push this issue.

TS: The political situation has also changed dramatically and, with it, people’s view of energy security. Making a substantial contribution towards transforming aviation is our goal. And that is exactly what we are working on.

About the people:

Dirk Schär holds a doctorate in chemistry and works in Hamburg as the Technical Manager Marketing and Sales Catalysts at Sasol Germany GmbH. The petroleum and chemical company Sasol is the second largest industrial enterprise in South Africa, but also operates several plants in Europe, primarily in Germany and Italy.

Tobias Sontheimer heads the Energy and Information Strategy Department at HZB. He holds a doctorate in physics and studied in Aachen and at Harvard University.


Seven project partners from Germany and South Africa have joined forces in the research project CARE-O-SENE. Their aim is to develop and optimise catalysts used in Fischer–Tropsch (FT) processes. FT catalysts are essential for the large-scale production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), such as green kerosene, and optimising these catalysts improves the efficiency of the process. Unlike conventional fossil fuels, SAFs are made from green hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Industries like aviation can therefore benefit significantly from the resulting reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. CARE-O-SENE will be a key enabler of Germany’s National Hydrogen Strategy. The project has a total volume of EUR 40 million and is funded with EUR 30 million by the BMBF. In addition to HZB, Sasol Limited and Sasol Germany, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS), the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Ineratec GmbH are also involved.

40-million-euro sustainable kerosene research project CARE-O-SENE receives funding

40-million-euro sustainable kerosene research project CARE-O-SENE receives funding

Hamburg/Berlin, 12 October 2022 – The international research project CARE-O-SENE (Catalyst Research for Sustainable Kerosene) was granted 30 million euros in funding by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Additionally, the indus-trial consortium partners contribute 10 million euros. The aim of the project is to develop novel, next-generation Fischer-Tropsch catalysts and thus to optimise the production of sustainable kerosene – or Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) – on an industrial scale.

Sustainable kerosene is not based on fossil-based raw materials like conventional kerosene but on green hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The technology contributes significantly to sustainably decarbonising sectors such as aviation, since fossil fuels are particularly difficult to replace in this area.

Research partners for the next generation of Fischer-Tropsch catalysts in CARE-O-SENE include Sasol Germany GmbH, Sasol Limited and the Helmholtz‐Zentrum Berlin fuer Materialien und Energie (Helmholtz Centre for Materials and Energy, HZB). Others are the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS), the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), The University of Cape Town (UCT) and INERATEC GmbH.

Dr Dirk Schaer, Lead Technical Marketing Catalyst at Sasol says: “Our work is an important building block of the German National Hydrogen Strategy. We are delighted that the BMBF has recognised the enormous potential in the CARE-O-SENE research project on the novel Fischer-Tropsch catalysts and supports the work.”

“We are absolutely delighted about the start of CARE-O-SENE,” adds Dr Tobias Sontheimer, Head of Strategy - Energy and Information at HZB. “The fact that each partner can contribute dedicated expertise in catalysis research and work so closely with successful companies on technological implementation makes the project very special.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa gave the go-ahead for the CARE-O-SENE project at a ceremony at Sasol’s headquarters in Johannesburg in May this year. Now that the positive funding decision has been taken, the research work can begin.

Media contacts:


Sunna Schulz, Senior Manager Corporate Affairs Eurasia Chemicals

Direct telephone: +49 40 63684-1364; Mobile: +49 152 0835 3881

Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie

Dr. Ina Helms, Head of Communication Department

Direct telephone: +49 30 8042-42034

About Sasol:

Sasol Germany GmbH is a manufacturer of high-quality chemical products with production sites in Brunsbuettel and Marl and its head office in Hamburg. Around 1,700 employees and almost 60 trainees produce innovative, sustainable products and develop solutions for the processing industry. The company offers a wide range of products, including substances for the production of detergents and cleaning agents, paints and coatings, cosmetics and pharmaceutical products. In addition, specialities such as high-purity and ultra-high-purity aluminas are used, for example, as catalyst carriers in catalytic converters for the automotive industry, industrial applications and high-performance abrasives.

Sasol Germany GmbH is part of the South African Sasol Group, a leading integrated chemical and energy company with almost 29,000 employees in 22 countries manufacturing and marketing first-class products. The Sasol Group includes the business divisions of Sasol Chemicals, Sasol Energy and Sasol ecoFT. The Sasol ecoFT division, newly founded in 2021, uses both Sasol's protected technology as well as expertise and experience to manufacture sustainable fuels and chemicals made of green hydrogen and sustainable carbon sources via the power-to-liquids process (PtL).

About HZB:

The Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie (HZB) is researching solutions for a climate-neutral society. Researchers are developing and optimising efficient and cost-effective energy materials for photovoltaic cells, batteries and catalysts. The HZB uses a research infrastructure with the accelerator-based x-ray source BESSY II which enables unique insights into materials and permits operando analyses. With around 1,200 employees, HZB is one of the largest non-academic research centres in Berlin in the field of energy research and is member of the Helmholtz Association. More information:


JOHANNESBURG, Südafrika, 25. Mai 2022 – Sasol und das Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) werden ein Konsortium leiten, das Katalysatoren der nächsten Generation entwickeln und optimieren will. Diese spielen eine Schlüsselrolle für die Entwicklung nachhaltiger Flugtreibstoffe (sustainable aviation fuels – SAF) und sind Grundlage für einen nachhaltigen Luftfahrtsektor.

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