Airports need to ‘get hydrogen ready’, says Jacobs

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According to new research from Jacobs, airports need to begin planning now if they are to be ready to fuel hydrogen-powered aircraft by 2035.

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Airports as Catalysts for Decarbonisation’ sets out a roadmap for airports to implement hydrogen fuelling technologies, building on the technical consultancy’s work for the Aeronautical Technology Institute FlyZero Report, ‘Airports, Airlines and Airspace - Operations and Hydrogen Infrastructure’.

Due to the length of time needed to plan, design, consult and implement new airport infrastructure, Jacobs urges airports to make provisions ahead of the first commercially available hydrogen-powered aircraft expected in the early to mid-2030s.

The company identified three scenarios for the supply and storage of hydrogen to help airports transition: the delivery of liquid hydrogen directly to the airport by truck (scenario one), the use of a hydrogen gas pipeline with on-site liquefaction (scenario two) and the use of electrolysis for hydrogen production on site at the airport (scenario three).

These scenarios can be utilised by airports on their own and also provide a route to scaling up hydrogen availability over time, Jacobs said. For example, a large airport may start by implementing scenario one for fuelling aircraft whilst the required infrastructure for the implementation of scenario two or three is being built.

It is recommended that airports start with providing airside hydrogen gas storage and refuelling stations in time for the first hydrogen-powered flights as soon as aircraft are available. They could then begin developing more advanced liquid hydrogen storage and gas pipelines for fuelling planes by the early 2050s.

The report says that these sources could also provide power beyond the planes and airport infrastructure — hydrogen gas blending could power heating in terminals by the mid-2040s, eventually moving to 100 per cent hydrogen gas heating in the 2050s, it suggests.

If an airport is able to produce hydrogen through electrolysis on-site, it could also become an energy hub for its local community and provide businesses, public services and homes with carbon neutral power, generating social value.

“Early adoption of fuelling infrastructure is critical to the implementation and success of hydrogen fuelled aircraft,” said Jacobs global solutions director for aviation, Andrew Gibson. “Hydrogen has the potential to be a core component for the decarbonisation of aviation. Airport operators and owners must build partnerships with local businesses and other transport operators to initiate the use of hydrogen in the immediate term.”