; What is green hydrogen and can it help decarbonize aviation?

Aviation, a significant contributor to global emission committed to decarbonize

Before the COVID-19 crisis, aviation accounted for more than 900 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, equivalent to 2-3% of the global greenhouse gas emission. While recovering from the crisis and with renewed growth rates, emissions from the sector may double by 2050. ​Aware of the challenges of decarbonisation, states, through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), committed to a carbon-neutral growth from 2020 and are working on a more ambitious global aspirational long-term goal for reducing aviation emissions. In addition, several aviation industry organisations and airlines have committed to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Green hydrogen, a solution to decarbonize flights and airport operations?

Low-carbon and green hydrogen could be used in aviation either to produce sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) to substitute fossil jet fuel or directly to fuel a new kind of aircraft powered with hydrogen fuel cell systems.

Fuel cell-powered propulsion is advocated for commuter and regional aircrafts in the next decades while SAF has already started to be blended in regular commercial flights and should be widespread in the coming years.

Hydrogen-based SAF could contribute to speed up the use of SAF in aircrafts by directly addressing current barriers:

  1. Its production does not rely on a limited quantity biomass with complex collection systems as waste oils, wastes from home and businesses or energy crops.
  2. On-going economies of scale in hydrogen sector should drive down SAF costs to reduce the gap with conventional jet fuels.

While around 50% of airport emissions are linked to jet fuel combustion, hydrogen could also address airports operations decarbonization as passenger shuttling, aircrafts and materials handlings or power and heat generation.

Hinicio and Strive cooperate to help our clients identify and seize the opportunities offered by the hydrogen development for its activities

Hinicio is a strategy consulting firm with a unique expertise in the field of hydrogen as decarbonization vector. Hinicio brings together an international team of high-level experts including engineers, economists and specialists in energy policy, transport, and environment. Their unique and high-quality results stem from their multidisciplinary approach bringing technology, markets, and policy together. Hinicio’s knowledge of the aviation sector has been built up over the last few years with the growing interest of fuel suppliers, energy companies and equipment manufacturers in the prospects of hydrogen in the aviation sector. Hinicio has been at the forefront of e-fuel projects, H2-hub development, transport, and storage of liquid and gaseous hydrogen.

In 2021, Vertis creates Strive, its climate action brand as a response to clients’ growing demand for climate action and the voluntary markets. Both Vertis and Strive believe Green and Low carbon Hydrogen will be a strategic market in a future carbon-neutral economy. The collaboration with Hinicio came naturally to meet the needs of our mutual clients to study hydrogen-related opportunities in their core activities or as new development aligned with carbon market perspectives and emissions reduction targets.

A favorable context for hydrogen, with a specific momentum in Aviation

Hydrogen is about to play a key role in the European recovery plans especially focused on decarbonization and energy transition. European Directives and other regulations (e.g. RED2) prefigure profitable business cases for H2 projects at scale associated with declining renewable energy cost and industrialization of H2 production. In addition, according to the European Commission proposal on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure, all EU countries have to develop a deployment plan for alternative fuels infrastructure in airports for hydrogen.

In the wake of hydrogen industry, more and more aviation stakeholders are announcing their hydrogen ambitions creating a hydrogen momentum in the aviation industry:

  • Airports have started to prepare themselves with in-depth analysis of the hydrogen opportunities for their activities and strategic partnerships with hydrogen industry leaders.
  • Industrial scale hydrogen-based SAF projects are under development, led by large Utilities, Oil&Gas major or hydrogen pure player involving airlines, fuel suppliers and airports;
  • Aircraft manufacturers are developing hydrogen-powered aircraft program with first demonstration expected during the next decade.

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