Hamburg Airport has joined the international “Hydrogen Hub at Airport” network, the twelfth and inaugural German hub, to facilitate the expansion of hydrogen infrastructure in the aviation industry. Members from the energy, aviation, and airport industries in eleven countries have already joined the network, including France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand. The global network aims to investigate, advance, and broaden the hydrogen use infrastructure.
The hydrogen expertise of Hamburg Airport will prove to be an invaluable resource for the ZEROe Hydrogen Ecosystem as it strives to establish a future in which aviation is powered by decarbonised hydrogen, according to Karine Guénan, vice president of the organisation. Karine Guénan stated that the increasing participation of airports around the globe, including Hamburg Airport, in Airbus’ “Hydrogen Hub at Airport” concept will be crucial to the 2035 deployment of hydrogen-powered aircraft.
In addition to substantially reducing air emissions, using hydrogen to power future aircraft should contribute to decarbonising aviation infrastructure on the ground. The Hydrogen Hub at Airports initiative was initiated by Airbus in 2020 to advance research on low-carbon airport operations and infrastructure requirements throughout the value chain. An additional participant in the collaboration based in Hamburg is Linde, a preeminent multinational engineering and industrial gases corporation.
According to Michael Eggenschwiler, the Chief Executive Officer of Hamburg Airport, the airport operates equitably in conjunction with Changi Airport in Singapore and Charles de Gaulle International Airport.
In 2020, Airbus unveiled the ZEROe concept aircraft, and a global R&T network is propelling the development of the corresponding technology building blocks with hydrogen technology for future commercial aircraft as its primary focus.
Implementing sustainable fuels and innovative propulsion concepts is crucial to meet the European Union’s aviation climate neutrality goal by 2050. Hydrogen is anticipated to assume a critical energy transport function, specifically catering to short-haul, regional, and medium-haul aircraft needs. Success requires, in addition to the technological advancement of aircraft, the provision of essential infrastructure, the adaptation of airport procedures, and the assurance of hydrogen availability. Given the circumstances above, on November 22, Hamburg Airport and the German Aerospace Centre (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) jointly introduced a strategic blueprint within the Networked Mobility for Liveable Places (VMo4Orte) initiative. This plan aims to establish a systematic progression towards the implementation of hydrogen technology in airports. A strategic approach was devised, drawing inspiration from Hamburg Airport, to demonstrate to other medium-sized terminals in Germany and Europe how implementing such a system could be economically and operationally viable.
Establishing a legally binding framework for air transport funding and planning by policymakers will be equally important to pilot initiatives and industry investments. Based on a recent prediction by the DLR Institute of Air Transport regarding the demand for hydrogen at German airports, it is possible that by 2050, around 19 million tonnes of kerosene utilised in air transport from Germany could be substituted with 6.6 million tonnes of green hydrogen. This would result in an approximate 60 million tonnes CO2 reduction. The disparity in the two substances can be attributed to hydrogen’s greater energy density than petroleum.
Hamburg Airport is attempting to establish itself as a leader among terminals in Germany. It is advantageous due to its proximity to the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, and the port of Hamburg. Furthermore, the route network’s emphasis on short and medium-haul flights contributes positively to the integration of hydrogen fuel. Additionally, the airport is currently prioritising the conversion of flight operations and ground services to hydrogen.
First hydrogen flights are anticipated before 2040
Using hydrogen in conjunction with fuel cells and electric powertrains or combusting it directly in highly efficient engines will be instrumental in advancing the energy transition in aviation. The first short-haul flights powered by hydrogen will be feasible within the next decade, and by 2040, the aviation industry intends to implement hydrogen aircraft for medium-haul flights. The percentage of Hamburg departures using hydrogen-powered aircraft may increase to 60% by 2050. This equates to an annual hydrogen demand of 60,000 tonnes at Hamburg Airport, resulting in a substantial decrease in carbon dioxide emissions. Based on the model calculations conducted as a component of the VMo4Orte initiative, it is plausible that hydrogen-powered aircraft could account for as much as 80% of the present flight operations at Hamburg Airport after the year 2050.
Storage capacity and established delivery methods are prerequisites for H2 air transport
From the initial years until approximately 2040, it is reasonable to anticipate that hydrogen will continue to be transported in limited quantities via specialised tanker vehicles. In the 2040s, as demand increases, an additional pipeline connection will be required to deliver additional supplies. In 2050, in the absence of a pipeline, the airport would require hydrogen delivered by an average of forty tankers per day annually. During periods of elevated demand, this quantity may be considerably greater. The conduit transport of hydrogen is exclusively possible in gaseous form due to the system’s design. Long-term aircraft refuelling will predominantly require liquid hydrogen; therefore, an airport liquefaction plant will also be necessary. Furthermore, establishing such a facility necessitates a significant financial outlay and generating enormous electricity from sustainable sources.