Aviation and shipping get more hydrogen traction

Green hydrogen is an ideal aviation fuel because it is a zero-pollution, renewable resource and weight-efficient energy carrier.

Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) and Los Angeles-based Universal Hydrogen Co. (UH2) have joined forces to enable the aviation industry to decarbonise through zero-emissions green hydrogen.

Under the MoU, FFI and Universal Hydrogen have agreed:

  • To negotiate a global offtake arrangement whereby FFI will supply green hydrogen to Universal Hydrogen to power regional and other aviation sectors until 2035
  • Conduct a scoping study to develop green hydrogen production and logistics hubs in Iceland, New Zealand and Southeast Queensland
  • Evaluate future green hydrogen demand in the aviation industry on a region-by-region basis to identify and promote green hydrogen adoption and uptake.

Currently, aviation accounts for 2.5% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and emissions have doubled since the 1980s. UH2 expects green hydrogen to be at cost parity with jet fuel on an equivalent energy basis by the mid-2020s and significantly cheaper in the following years.

Universal Hydrogen, in which FFI is also an early investor, is building a flexible, scalable, and capital-light solution to hydrogen logistics for aviation through its modular capsule technology. It is also developing a powertrain retrofit kit to enable regional passenger and cargo aeroplanes to be converted to fly on hydrogen, with the first test flight is anticipated in 2022.

Universal Hydrogen Co. has also signed a letter of intent (LOI) with Acia Aero Leasing, a leading regional aircraft lessor with offices in Ireland, France, Canada, Mauritius, and South Africa. Acia expects to place ten firm orders for Universal Hydrogen’s ATR 72 conversion kits with additional purchase rights for 20 more conversion kits of various turboprop types. Both parties will collaborate on marketing hydrogen fuel services to Acia’s leasing customers. Universal Hydrogen will deliver green hydrogen to regional airports worldwide using its modular capsule technology and existing airport cargo handling equipment.

Meanwhile, ZeroAvia continues its partnership spree and announced an Aircraft and Infrastructure financing collaboration with Rose Cay GP, LLP (a US-based real asset special situations investment platform). Rose Cay plans to acquire existing aircraft, convert them using ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-electric powertrain system, and lease them to operators. The deal includes a conditional purchase order for up to 250 engines, with deliveries beginning as early as 2024. Rose Cay would provide the capital to fund aircraft acquisition, ZeroAvia hydrogen-electric powertrain systems, and conversion costs for lease customers. Together with ZeroAvia, Rose Cay also intends to develop airport infrastructure projects.

In Canada, Air Canada and Carbon Engineering Ltd. signed an MoU to identify potential opportunities in how Carbon Engineering’ proprietary Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology, which captures carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, can advance aviation decarbonisation. The two Canadian companies plan to explore potential cooperation activities in sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), permanent carbon dioxide removal and innovation. Through integration with Carbon Engineering’s Air-To-Fuels technology, DAC can be used to produce ultra-low carbon transportation fuels, such as SAF, by combining atmospheric CO2 with clean hydrogen.

Airflow and Pipistrel have partnered through which Pipistrel will supply motors, motor controllers, and batteries for Airflow’s proof-of-concept aircraft and will further explore collaborating on the electric propulsion solution for Airflow’s production aircraft. Pipistrel Vertical Solutions, Pipistrel’ R&D division, is also developing a hybrid-electric VTOL cargo aircraft and a hydrogen fuel-cell powered 19-seat miniliner/microfeeder to revolutionise the intra-European transport market.

American Airlines has published its updated path to net-zero emissions by 2050. The airline added the intermediate 2035 target to align its reporting with the commitment it has undertaken with SBTi. To achieve that new target, Americans made more aggressive assumptions regarding the availability of sustainable aviation fuel and the approval and adoption of hydrogen and electric propulsion aircraft.

In the shipping industry, Christopher J. Wiernicki, ABS Chairman, told delegates at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP26 that Shipping is the critical enabler in the world’s transition to low carbon operations and needs Government support to ensure it is at the front of the queue for next-generation fuels. ABS, Hyundai Heavy Industries, and Korea Shipbuilding and Offshore Engineering also announced two landmark joint development projects (JDPs) during COP26 to develop decarbonisation technologies to support global sustainability ambitions. The JDPs address green hydrogen production and offshore carbon capture and storage.

In COP26, the world’s first emission-free hydrogen-powered drone vessel was unveiled by Acua. The London-based company Acua Ocean commissioned Proton Motor with the development of a fuel cell. The company launched Acua Ocean`s project in partnership with the University of Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute to monitor and protect marine assets and offshore infrastructure. The UK Department of Transport supported the project with £1.05 million through the call for ‘Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition’.

Vestas and Maersk have formed a long-term strategic partnership for all containerised transport. The partnership includes door-to-door transportation from Vestas suppliers to its factories and service warehouses as well as containerised site parts and transport equipment. In addition, the partnership also consists of all airfreight shipments. The partnership excludes on-containerised road transport and will be effective from January 2022. It also entails an opportunity to co-develop a joint sustainability journey, where the two leading companies can join forces to decarbonise logistics through green hydrogen solutions.

Café William and Sailcargo announced their first zero-emission sailing cargo ship to transport its coffee beans from South America to its roasting plant in Sherbrooke. Ceiba will be a sustainably built vessel for carrying cargo, with zero emissions and will go into operation in 2023. It will be the world’s largest active, clean ocean freight vessel. It will be powered by wind, kinetic, electrical and hydrogen. Its average life span will be 100 years and will be made out of regenerative wood.

Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co., Ltd. has reached an agreement with Mitsui OSK Lines, Ltd. and Namura Shipbuilding Co., Ltd. on joint development of large-size ammonia carriers fueled by ammonia. The three companies will jointly develop the basic design of a large-size ammonia carrier where Mitsubishi Shipbuilding will take charge of the optimal design of cargo tank and deck tank used for ammonia fuel, organising engine and related machinery systems.

In Australia, Poseidon H2 has been launched to become a significant player in Australia’s hydrogen-fuelled maritime industry. It plans to use leading-edge green hydrogen technology in a range of maritime applications and set the industry on a route towards zero carbon (CO2) emissions. It also aims to facilitate renewable hydrogen energy among shipping companies across Australia and the world.

Shahkar Ali

Shahkar is the regional representative for Asia covering the hydrogen industry for H2 Bulletin. Please click on the email icon to contact him directly via email or follow him on social media.
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