Key findings from 'Opportunities for hydrogen in commercial aviation' show that hydrogen can significantly reduce aviation emissions in the long-term and that growing hydrogen industry momentum can provide an opportunity for airport applications as early as 2025.
A roadmap for hydrogen in the aviation industry
The report outlines how hydrogen can be adopted across short, medium and long-term applications within the commercial aviation industry, each providing increased CO2 abatement potential over time.
Short-term adoption involves the replacement of on-airport equipment, currently running on liquid fuels and batteries, with hydrogen powered fuel cell alternatives. While not a large contributor to emissions for the sector, on-airport applications represent a straightforward and near-term opportunity to introduce clean hydrogen.
In the medium term, hydrogen can be combined with carbon dioxide to produce a 'drop-in' jet fuel that requires no change in existing aircraft infrastructure. Given the low rate of asset turnover within the aviation sector, electrofuels represent a primary way for hydrogen to achieve meaningful decarbonisation before 2050.
Looking forward, increasingly stringent environmental regulations could force a complete departure from conventional jet fuel towards 2050, even with the uptake of electrofuels. Given its unique properties, hydrogen could play a key role in facilitating a transition to innovative and emerging infrastructure for both non-propulsion and propulsion aircraft applications.
The industry is faced with the challenge of meeting low-emissions targets while continuing to instill consumer confidence in passenger safety and health.
This CSIRO/Boeing report takes a long-term view – it presents a meaningful way to prioritise sustainability in the aviation industry, particularly as the sector recovers from the impacts of COVID-19.