Jacobs' research provides roadmap for the future of H<sub>2</sub> plane fueling

Airport owners and operators need to plan for the delivery and storage of H2 now if they are to be ready to fuel H2-powered aircraft which are expected by 2035. New research by Jacobs provides a roadmap for airports to implement H2 fueling technologies, building on its work for the Aeronautical Technology Institute FlyZero Report, "Airports, Airlines and Airspace - Operations and H2 Infrastructure".

Due to the length of time it takes to plan, design, consult and implement new airport infrastructure, airports must make provisions ahead of the first commercially available H2-powered aircraft expected in the early to mid-2030s.

These scenarios can be used by airports on their own and provide a route to scaling up H2 availability over time. For example, a large airport may start by implementing scenario 1 for fueling aircraft while the required infrastructure for the implementation of scenario 2 or 3 is being built.

The new roadmap provides airports with steps which can be incrementally implemented to ensure H2-powered flights are able to take off as soon as aircraft are available. It recommends that airports start with providing airside H2 gas storage and refueling stations in time for the first flights, before developing more advanced liquid H2 storage and gas pipelines for fueling planes by the early 2050s.

These sources will be able to provide power beyond the planes and airport infrastructure. The report suggests H2 gas blending could power heating in terminals by the mid-2040s eventually moving to 100% H2 gas heating in the 2050s. If an airport can produce H2 through electrolysis onsite, it could become an energy hub for its local community. This would provide businesses, public services and homes with carbon neutral power, generating social value.

“Early adoption of fueling infrastructure is critical to the implementation and success of H2-fueled aircraft,” said Jacobs Global Solutions Director for Aviation Andrew Gibson. “H2 has the potential to be the core component for the decarbonization of aviation. Airport operators and owners must build partnerships with local businesses and other transport operators to initiate the use of H2 in the immediate term. By incrementally building the H2 supply and distribution of infrastructure from a short-term starting point, airports can be ready for H2-powered planes as soon as they are commercially viable.”

Emissions generated from flights account for most of an airport’s climate impact. Around 80% of global aviation sector emissions come from flights longer than 1,500 km. It’s estimated that the use of H2 powered aircraft could reduce the climate impact of flights by 50-75%. Airbus has identified a H2-combustion propulsion system to potentially provide a net-zero commercial aircraft by 2035.