Airbus to deploy hydrogen infrastructure concepts by next year



Hydrogen is the answer to the zero-emission energy question for aircraft, according to Karine Guenan, head of Hydrogen Ecosystem, Airbus. That’s why the French OEM is making partnerships and developing concepts like Hydrogen Hubs at Airports to overcome the main challenges to its widespread use – infrastructure deployment, adoption and cost.

Since 2020, Airbus has launched a number of preliminary studies into airport infrastructure and energy production needs. Guenan told Revolution.Aero by 2023, Airbus wants to start deploying hydrogen hub concepts at airports worldwide. “We expect a ramp-up of hydrogen infrastructure deployment worldwide in the 2030 timeframe in order to be ready for an entry-into-service of hydrogen aircraft at airports by 2035. Hydrogen has a specific energy-per-unit mass that is three times higher than traditional jet fuel, which makes it much more effective than batteries as a zero-emission energy source,” said Guenan.

“Yes, the deployment of infrastructure adapted to the aviation industry’s transition to hydrogen is one of the main challenges,” Guenan said. “It is the main driver behind the partnerships and cooperation agreements that we have been securing with partners at airports and/or hydrogen suppliers in order to develop a stepped approach to decarbonise airport facilities, ground operations and transportation (heavy goods logistics, buses, tow trucks) using hydrogen.”

Airbus has secured eight agreements since June 2021, including airports in France, Italy and Korea. Global reach is crucial for scale-up and adoption and that, in turn, is crucial to ensure competitive green hydrogen in volumes to fuel aviation’s needs.

Cost is also a key factor; hydrogen is available in vast quantities in oceans, lakes and the atmosphere. However, it must be separated from oxygen through water electrolysis using renewable energy in order to be used for industrial purposes.

“In addition, even if several industries already use hydrogen for various purposes, and it is a well-known molecule, commercial aviation will need to create the specific rules and regulations for operating hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft,” Guenan added.

Hydrogen will be produced at a larger scale as the energy sector reduces its CO2 emissions. “This is because hydrogen is the only scalable energy-storage system capable of stabilising electricity networks provisioned by wind turbines and solar panels. Renewable hydrogen is likely to be a solution for several industries to meet their climate targets.”

Independent forecasts from the International Energy Agency, International Renewable Energy Agency and McKinsey all predict that the necessary cross-industry scale-up will significantly reduce costs. It is forecast that the price will be reduced from the 2020 cost of 5 – 7$/kg to about3$/kg in 2030, and around2$/kg in 2050.