Aviation companies Airbus, Avinor, SAS, Swedavia, and Vattenfall have banded together to investigate the feasibility of hydrogen infrastructure at airports in Sweden and Norway.
The five companies signed an agreement to execute their plan, with the aim to better understand hydrogen aircraft concepts and operations, supply, infrastructures, and refueling needs at airports to build the hydrogen ecosystem.
Hydrogen is a potential alternative to decarbonize the aviation industry, as hydrogen has a specific energy-per-unit mass that is three times higher than traditional jet fuel, according to Airbus. The renewable energy can potentially power large aircraft over long distances without emitting carbon when hydrogen is created through electrolysis.
The aviation partners will conduct a feasibility study covering two countries and more than 50 airports, and work to identify pathways for which airports will be transformed to operate hydrogen-powered aircraft and the accompanying regulatory framework.
The companies have a shared ambition of the aviation industry reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“Hydrogen stands out as a key enabler as we pioneer a sustainable aviation future,” Guillaume Faury, CEO of Airbus, said in a statement. “Norway and Sweden are among the most demanding regions for aviation and have great potential for hydrogen production from renewable energy sources. I am very pleased to enter into this cooperation with partners fully engaged to take significant steps towards decarbonizing aerospace. It fits perfectly with our strategy of deploying hydrogen aviation ecosystems in the most suitable parts of the world.”
Expanding Hydrogen in Aviation
The agreement comes after Airbus unveiled in 2020 the first ZEROe concept, the world’s first hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft. The company hopes to bring the aircraft to market by 2035.
Airbus also launched the Hydrogen Hub at Airports program to research infrastructure requirements and low-carbon airport operations. The company has signed with partners and airports in ten countries including France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
The push for hydrogen-powered aircraft comes as the aviation industry has been exploring sustainable alternative fuel (SAF) as another option to reduce emissions and dependency on jet fuel. SAF is made from non-petroleum feedstocks and can be blended at different levels with limits of 10% to 50%. More than 360,000 commercial flights have used SAF at 46 different airports largely concentrated in the United States and Europe, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
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The SAF market is also expected to grow rapidly, jumping from $1.1 billion in 2023 to $16.8 billion in 2030, spurred by government incentives and airline sustainability targets, with a compound annual growth rate of 47.7%.