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New Zealand Takes Flight Towards Green Hydrogen Aviation

A greener future for aviation is in the making. The New Zealand Hydrogen Aviation Consortium aims to pave the way for green hydrogen aviation in New Zealand.

Airbus Hydrogen Powered aircraft.

The Consortium has published a report, “Launching green hydrogen-powered aviation in Aotearoa New Zealand.” It reveals the potential for hydrogen-powered aviation. Hydrogen-powered flights could cut up to 900,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year by 2050. That is, by flying liquid hydrogen-fuelled aircraft on domestic routes. The report includes insights from six global aviation and energy companies. Airbus, Air New Zealand, Christchurch Airport, Fortescue, Hiringa Energy, and Fabrum contributed.

The Hydrogen Consortium

Since starting their venture in February 2023, the Consortium has studied the details of the hydrogen supply chain. Their efforts have focused on gauging the hydrogen demands of the local aviation market. The Consortium also suggests regulatory changes and incentives to ease the progress towards green hydrogen aviation.

Airbus Hydrogen-Powered Aircraft Program

Airbus is developing the world’s first hydrogen aircraft intended for commercial application. New Zealand makes an ideal setting for these aircraft. As Karine Guenan, the ZEROe Ecosystem Vice President at Airbus, explains:

“The country’s large potential renewable electricity and water resources are key advantages. The size of aircraft used here and the length of routes flown match the capabilities of hydrogen-powered aircraft. This report lays out the ecosystem required to make that happen. It is a first step. Airbus is committed to leveraging our expertise working with government, industries, and stakeholders to bring it to life,” says Guenan.

Fabrum Hydrogen Systems

Local Christchurch enterprise Fabrum is active in overseas hydrogen aviation projects. Fabrum has a history of developing sustainable aviation solutions and green hydrogen systems. The company offers its expertise to the Consortium. Fabrum’s Chairman and Co-Founder Christopher Boyle sees green hydrogen as a key contributor to sustainable aviation.

“Our team co-developed the world’s first electric aircraft engine for Magnix. We built superconducting electric motors and rotors for SAFRAN and Airbus. We manufacture green hydrogen systems for airports and on-board liquid hydrogen tanks for low-emission flights. The opportunity to use our experience to ensure green hydrogen aviation takes off in New Zealand is exciting,” Boyle says.

Air New Zealand Flies the Flag for Sustainability

Similarly, the national carrier, Air New Zealand, supports the vision of the new Consortium. Air New Zealand Chief Sustainability Officer Kiri Hannifin says the report presents a map towards hydrogen-powered aviation. It marks a new chapter for New Zealand’s aviation industry.

“Air New Zealand is committed to decarbonizing its operations.  Green hydrogen-fuelled aircraft is one of the potential levers available to us.  This report provides important proof points. The aviation sector and decision-makers must work together to make that happen,” Hannifin says.

What New Zealand Needs to Launch Green Hydrogen Aviation

Critically, the report reveals that New Zealand must:

  • Amplify renewable energy generation.
  • Augment power transmission and distribution capabilities.
  • Formulate policies fostering a green hydrogen ecosystem.
  • Innovate systems ensuring hydrogen’s safety and effectiveness.
  • Aim for cost-efficiency in green hydrogen production and distribution.

The Consortium’s predictive models project New Zealand’s annual green hydrogen requirement could escalate to 100,000 tonnes for aircraft by 2050. Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch airports would supply the hydrogen to future aircraft.

Christchurch Airport’s Plan for Hydrogen Supply

Christchurch Airport General Manager Future Planning and Sustainability Nick Flack addresses energy needs. He says it takes up to 6,700 gigawatt hours of renewable energy to generate an adequate green hydrogen supply.

“That’s up to 16% of New Zealand’s current total electricity supply. That demand presents an opportunity for businesses. We’ve now committed to progressing a hydrogen hub as part of our 400-hectare renewable energy precinct, Kōwhai Park. Twenty other airports around the world are doing the same,” says Flack.

Hiringa Energy Focuses on Supply Chain Needs

Hiringa Energy Chief Executive Andrew Clennett points to physical and regulatory infrastructure needs, allowing the deployment of low-emission aircraft.

“Green hydrogen is integral to decarbonizing New Zealand’s domestic aviation network. That’s why it made perfect sense for Hiringa to join the consortium. By sharing our first-hand technical, operational, and commercial expertise, we hope to accelerate New Zealand’s thriving green hydrogen landscape. To lead the world in the transition to clean aviation,” Clennet says.

Green Hydrogen Aviation: The Future of Flight

The transition to green hydrogen aviation might pose challenges, yet it represents a tangible and practical solution. Achieving this vision necessitates collaboration, commitment, and unwavering dedication from all stakeholders. With the Consortium’s combined expertise, New Zealand is on a path to lead the global transition to green hydrogen aviation.

Green hydrogen is a beacon for airlines aiming for net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Beyond the aviation sector, green hydrogen finds its application in many vehicles. That includes cars, trucks, buses, and boats, marking the onset of a sustainable era in transportation.

For a better understanding of the role these enterprises play in the green hydrogen aviation arena, check these links:

Together, these entities propel New Zealand towards a greener, sustainable future in aviation and beyond.

Delve deeper into the findings and recommendations of the New Zealand Hydrogen Aviation Consortium’s report.

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