A new report from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO shows that clean hydrogen can significantly reduce aviation emissions with potential benefits seen within five years.
Opportunities for hydrogen in commercial aviation’, which had technical input and funding from The Boeing Company, reports that growing hydrogen industry momentum could provide an opportunity to introduce hydrogen for niche airport applications (such as ground support equipment) as early as 2025.
By 2035, hydrogen could provide much deeper decarbonisation when used in conjunction with existing airport and aircraft infrastructure, and could then support a complete transition from conventional jet fuel around 2050.
CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said the disruption to air travel caused by COVID-19 had caused the industry to rethink their paradigm and recover to a different “normal”.
“As we see travel resume, hydrogen presents a key solution to enable a sustainable recovery for the industry using liquid renewable fuel, and to grow future resilience from threats like oil shocks,” Dr Marshall said.
“CSIRO’s 2018 breakthrough in fuelling hydrogen-powered cars with liquid renewable fuel has created opportunities for industries to supercharge their decarbonisation by investing in hydrogen.
“Science becomes real in the hands of visionary partners like Boeing who are willing to embrace science to support the development of a whole new sustainable and resilient industry that supports a green recovery.”
The global aviation industry consumes 3.2 times more energy than the whole of Australia each year and has widely adopted a target of reducing their emissions by 50 per cent based on 2005 levels, with no net increase after 2020.
A range of sustainable fuels could assist in meeting the emissions target, and hydrogen-based fuels represented a key path to sustainable transport.
General Manager of Boeing Research & Technology – Australia Michael Edwards said the aviation industry was committed to reducing net CO2 emissions.
“Boeing is committed to building a more sustainable future and we, along with the broader aviation sector, are committed to achieving the aviation industry goal of halving CO2 net emissions by 2050 relative to 2005 levels,” Mr Edwards said.
“In addition to more efficient aircraft, sustainable aviation fuels like hydrogen are a necessary contributor to the decarbonisation of aviation, and we are committed to furthering their development.”
While COVID-19 has had a major impact on the sector, the report takes a long-term view, presenting a meaningful way to recover while prioritising sustainability.
CSIRO’s 2018 ‘National Hydrogen Roadmap’ noted that Australia’s hydrogen industry is set for rapid scale-up, with cost competitiveness within reach.
This new report examines global applications, while highlighting the opportunity for national demonstration projects and continued innovation.
CSIRO is undertaking a broad range of hydrogen-related research, with a focus on reducing emissions associated with transport, energy production, and exports.
CSIRO’s goal is to build a clean and competitive hydrogen industry delivering economic benefit and a secure and resilient energy system in support of Australia’s transition to a low emissions future
CSIRO has partnered with Boeing to produce a report on how clean hydrogen-based technologies can make a significant contribution to emissions reduction in the aviation sector.
Key findings from ‘Opportunities for hydrogen in commercial aviation’ show that hydrogen can significantly reduce aviation emissions in the long-term and that growing hydrogen industry momentum can provide an opportunity for airport applications as early as 2025.
The report outlines how hydrogen can be adopted across short, medium and long-term applications within the commercial aviation industry, each providing increased CO2 abatement potential over time.
Short-term adoption involves the replacement of on-airport equipment, currently running on liquid fuels and batteries, with hydrogen powered fuel cell alternatives. While not a large contributor to emissions for the sector, on-airport applications represent a straightforward and near-term opportunity to introduce clean hydrogen.
In the medium term, hydrogen can be combined with carbon dioxide to produce a ‘drop-in’ jet fuel that requires no change in existing aircraft infrastructure. Given the low rate of asset turnover within the aviation sector, electrofuels represent a primary way for hydrogen to achieve meaningful decarbonisation before 2050.
Looking forward, increasingly stringent environmental regulations could force a complete departure from conventional jet fuel towards 2050, even with the uptake of electrofuels. Given its unique properties, hydrogen could play a key role in facilitating a transition to innovative and emerging infrastructure for both non-propulsion and propulsion aircraft applications.
The industry is faced with the challenge of meeting low-emissions targets while continuing to instill consumer confidence in passenger safety and health.
This CSIRO/Boeing report takes a long-term view – it presents a meaningful way to prioritise sustainability in the aviation industry, particularly as the sector recovers from the impacts of COVID-19.