Hydrogen is gaining momentum in the aviation sector

Like many other sectors, aviation is also facing the challenge of decarbonisation. It is estimated that the global aviation sector emits around 0.9 billion tonnes of CO2 annually, which is expected to be almost doubled by 2050. The Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) aimed to halve the emission by 2050 from its 2005 levels while the EU target is to be carbon neutral by the time.

Early this week (23th February), the European Council announced setting up a Clean Aviation Partnership, aiming to make the aviation industry climate neutral by accelerating the development, integration, and validation of mainly disruptive research and innovation solutions. Around € 1.7 billion (US$ 2.1 billion) funds have been allocated for the partnership. The partnership goal is to decrease net emissions of greenhouse gasses by no less than 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels and on a pathway towards reaching climate neutrality by 2050. Meanwhile, the council also set up Clean Hydrogen Partnership with €1 billion (US$ 1.2 billion) of funding.

One trend that is becoming visible from the aforementioned announcements and other similar developments that H2 Bulletin recently published is that hydrogen is emerging as a promising solution.

The aviation industry has been on the lookout for various options to tackle the emission. There are fundamentally two approaches to decarbonise the aviation industry. The first approach is more direct which is working on the fuel aspect, while the other method is to develop new climate-friendly propulsion technologies.

Biofuel and e-fuels are the two leading contenders when it comes to jet fuel innovations, and even both are drop-in fuels that would not require changes in aircraft and fuel infrastructure. On the new technological development side, battery-electric and hydrogen propulsion have received more focus recently. Hydrogen can be combusted in a burning engine or work in a fuel cell to power the engine.

The application of hydrogen in aviation is not a new concept. In 1957, a Martin B-57B of the NACA flew on hydrogen for 20 minutes. Then Soviets flew the Tupolev Tu-155 on hydrogen in 1988. Boeing converted a 2-seat Diamond DA20 to run on a fuel cell that first flew in 2008.  Boeing has been working on hydrogen and fuel cell applications for aviation for more than 15 years, including three flight demonstration programs.

Our next article will focus on Boeing and its works on hydrogen in the aviation sector. We also asked Boeing some questions, which we will discuss in our next article.

This is part 1 of a 6-part series on hydrogen in the aviation sector that will run every Friday.  If you have any questions or want to share your views, please feel free to contact us at editor@h2bulletin.com or +44 (0) 208 123 7812

Obaid Shah

Obaid Shah is the Editor at H2 Bulletin and has decades of experience in commodities and economics. He frequently presents at international conferences. Obaid holds an MS in International Economics from the University of Glasgow, and before this, he secured an MA in Economics. His detailed bio is on the About Us page. Click on the email icon to send me an email or follow me on social media. I am reachable on Phone: +44 (0) 208 123 7812
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