July 31, 2020, ©. Leeham News: In our series on Hydrogen as an energy store for airliner use we begin by looking at the needed ecosystem that can produce and distribute Hydrogen.
When I was skeptical about hydrogen as a means to propel our airliners three years ago, the main problem was the lack of this ecosystem. That year, in 2017, 13 transport and energy companies formed the Hydrogen Council, to create this ecosystem. Today the council has 81 members, with 22 joining in the last year, Figure 1. The list reads as Who’s Who in the transport and energy sector.
Here the charter of the Hydrogen Council:
The Hydrogen Council is a CEO-led global initiative of leading energy, transport and industry companies with a united vision and long-term ambition for hydrogen to foster the energy transition. The coalition of 81 members including large multinationals, innovative SMEs and investors collectively represent total revenues of over €18.7 trillion and close to 6 million jobs around the world. The coalition has more than quadrupled in size since its founding in 2017 by 13 members.
This grouping has the necessary incentive, knowledge, and firepower to establish the production and distribution capacity for ramping of a Hydrogen energy ecosystem.
EU has through it’s Clean Sky initiative sponsored a study of a Hydrogen powered aviation that was published last month, Figure 2.
It had Airbus and Boeing as participants, and several members from the Hydrogen Council contributed to the report. It has the latest information on several topics around Hydrogen for air transport and we will quote from it as we go forward.
Our first extract is around the capability to support a change to Hydrogen for parts of the airline fleet until 2050 (the report sketches two scenarios for the Hydrogen ramp, an aggressive and an, in my opinion, more realistic ramp):
In the two scenarios, the global demand for hydrogen would reach approximately 10 or 40 million tons of LH2 by 2040 per annum, and approximately 40 or 130 million tons by 2050. This amount represents 5 or 20 percent of the total global demand for hydrogen projected by the Hydrogen Council by 2040, and 10 or 25 percent of global demand by 2050.
We see that the lower projection represents 5% of global Hydrogen production by 2040 and 10% by 2050, fully realistic quantities.
One of the contributors to the report is the French company Air Liquide, with experience around Hydrogen as fuel through among other sectors, the space launcher area. Here what it says about its aircraft Hydrogen research and experience:
Air Liquide has been working on introducing hydrogen in aviation since the early 2010s. A project supported by the European Union (EU), launched in 2013, demonstrated the feasibility of an airborne gaseous hydrogen tank to power fuel cells. It has clearly demonstrated gaseous hydrogen was not the solution for the propulsion of aircraft, given the large quantities required (several tons aboard) and that liquid hydrogen (LH2) is the only way forward.
We now believe that it is urgent to use flight demonstrators as the principal means of evaluating, maturing and validating the technology and the procedures required to use liquid hydrogen. This is the goal of the Heaven project, granted by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), where Air Liquide is in charge of the storage while the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, DLR) will modify its existing “HY4” R&D platform by switching from a gaseous to a liquid hydrogen storage. The first flight will occur in 2022 and it will be the world’s first passenger aircraft powered by fuel cells fed with liquid hydrogen.
The announcements from the French and German governments where they support the development of a Hydrogen ecosystem and the first Hydrogen fueled aircraft until 2035 shall be seen in the context of European participation in the Hydrogen Council and different EU research programs.
There has been a lot going on behind the scenes around Hydrogen in the last year. The announcement on the 10th of June by the French Government that they support their industry with €15bn investments for, among other items development of the first Hydrogen powered airliner, was carefully coordinated with industry partners and the EU.