Safran: Full Throttle on the Hydrogen Turbine for the BeautHyFuel Project!

By April 2, 2024 3   min read  (625 words)

April 2, 2024 |

2024 04 02 09 02 14 3

A promising start for an ambitious project! On January 11, 2024, Turbotech and Safran successfully carried out the first ground tests of a hydrogen-fueled engine as part of the BeautHyFuel project. But what exactly does this mean for the future of hydrogen in aviation? Find out in this article!

Behind this poetic name lies a major program to decarbonize aviation. On January 11, the BeautHyFuel project achieved a major milestoneground tests were successfully carried out on a hydrogen-fueled gas turbine. This project serves a dual purpose: preparing the certification of a SAF-powered turbine for light aviation and demonstrating its adaptability with hydrogen as fuel through ground tests.

Supported by the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) as part of the 2020 France Relance initiative, BeautHyFuel is the culmination of an unprecedented collaboration between several players in the aeronautical industry. While start-ups such as Turbotech and Elixir Aircraft are leading the project, industry giants such as DaherAir Liquide and Safran are also involved. In fact, the tests were carried out on a test bench provided and jointly operated by ArianeGroup.

A technical feat

The tests were carried out on TurboTech’s small TP-R90 engine, designed for general aviation – namely light aircraft with two to seven seats – using hydrogen stored in gaseous form. “Hydrogen is easier to handle in this form, especially on a small engine,” explains Adrien Cahuzac, project member and System Architect for Safran Tech’s Energy and Propulsion Division. “As such, we were able to test parameters such as flow regulation strategies and engine shutdown limits. On the long term, the goal is therefore to store hydrogen in liquid form  to carry larger quantities and fly long distances.”

This will be the focus of the next stage, which will take place in April. Its goal will be to carry out tests on a complete chain, i.e. by connecting the engine to a liquid hydrogen storage system. “We will use a cryogenic hydrogen tank system provided by Air Liquide. This system will be pressurized and heated before being injected into the turbine in gaseous form at ambient temperature,” details Adrien Cahuzac.

The strength of combined know-how

A project like this would not have been possible without the involvement of expert players in their fields. As such, Safran leverages its expertise as an aircraft engine manufacturer. In particular, the Group is managing the design of the metering system  that allows to measure and  control the flow of hydrogen to the engine. TurboTech is working on adapting its engine to hydrogen with the help of Safran. Elixir Aircraft is on hand as an aircraft manufacturer specializing in 4th-generation light aircraft. Finally, Daher brings its expertise in aircraft development, certification, production and maintenance to the table.

Exploring the great potential of hydrogen

The BeautHyFuel project represents a small-scale technological brick for Safran but remains significant in the development of the hydrogen industry. It plays a key role in bringing hydrogen combustion technologies to maturity.

Despite the many challenges that will have to be overcome, particularly in terms of logistics and technology, hydrogen – as a carbon-neutral fuel – is one of the solutions being considered by Safran to decarbonize aviation. Hydrogen has properties that are very different from kerosene (e.g. the way it burns), and remains more complicated to handle, especially when large quantities are involved. Its use as a fuel therefore requires a number of technical adaptations on aircraft. Thanks to the BeautHyFuel project, we’re on the right track!” concludes Jérôme Mora, systems integration expert and H2TECH program** manager.

*SAF: Sustainable Aviation Fuels.
**H2TECH is a program launched by Safran in 2023, aiming to mature hydrogen component technologies for the aerospace industry.

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