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Zero Emission Aviation Consortium Launched in New Zealand

An Air New Zealand 787 Dreamliner at Paine Field. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Bailey)

A new Zero Emissions Aviation Consortium was recently launched in New Zealand to help the country become a pioneer in the commercial use of environmentally friendly hydrogen-powered aircraft.

Although hydrogen is a difficult gas to handle, it has a high energy density. It must be remembered that on Earth hydrogen is mainly found in combined form (with oxygen in water or with carbon), and in gaseous form in very small quantities in the Earth’s atmosphere. Therefore, unlike fossil fuels, hydrogen cannot be extracted but must be produced.

There are three kinds of hydrogen:

  • Brown hydrogen is produced from hydrocarbon-rich feedstocks such as fossil fuels, including methane and coal. It produces as much CO2 as the combustion of the fuel.
  • Blue hydrogen is basically brown hydrogen, but the CO2 produced is captured and stored permanently.
  • Green hydrogen is hydrogen, but produced from renewable sources (such as solar and wind) through the process of electrolysis, from which hydrogen can be produced, the subsequent conversion of which produces energy and water vapor, without producing any pollutants.

The consortium will focus exclusively on green hydrogen.

The Consortium

The six consortium partners, Airbus, Fortescue Future Industries (FFI), Air New Zealand, Hiringa Energy, Fabrum and Christchurch Airport, will work together to develop the necessary solutions to meet the targets and to develop policies, regulations and incentives to support the development of hydrogen aviation in New Zealand.

Airbus is already very active in this field and has been working for several years to develop and deliver the world’s first hydrogen-powered commercial airliner (the ZEROe project) with a target date of 2035.

Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) is a Western Australian green energy company committed to the production of environmentally friendly, carbon-neutral hydrogen from 100% renewable sources.

Air New Zealand is an airline with a fleet of 104 operational aircraft ranging from Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and Airbus A320s to ATRs and Q300s. Air New Zealand aims to make its first hydrogen-powered commercial demonstration flight in 2026 and begin replacing its Q300 turboprop fleet with low-emission aircraft from 2030.

Hiringa Energy is a New Zealand-based company that has been developing high-capacity green hydrogen production and refueling infrastructure across New Zealand since 2017, with the first four stations already under construction in Hamilton, Palmerston North, Auckland and Tauranga, and plans to expand to 100 stations across New Zealand by 2030.

Fabrum is a New Zealand company that manufactures green hydrogen systems for ground infrastructure at airports, as well as onboard tanks to transport liquid hydrogen for zero-emission flights. It co-developed the world’s first electric aircraft engine for Magnix and built superconducting electric motors/rotors for SAFFRAN/Airbus. The New Zealand company recently developed lightweight liquid hydrogen tank technology for Emirates Team New Zealand’s Chase Zero boat, which is sure to be useful in aviation.

Christchurch Airport, on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, is currently developing a 400-hectare renewable energy zone called Kōwhai Park.

The creation of a consortium demonstrates once again that it is not enough for a single company or airport to ‘solve’ the problem of aviation emissions, but that collective and joint action is needed to create a system involving all the different players in the strategic sectors: design, logistics and infrastructure.

New Zealand already has green hydrogen buses, trucks, trains and boats, some of which are supplied by the country’s infrastructure. Through this consortium, it will be possible to define and develop the existing infrastructure to supply aircraft.

In the first phase, to be completed by the end of 2023, the hydrogen supply chain will be studied and the projected needs of the local aviation market up to 2050 will be assessed. This will be followed by an investigation into the feasibility of test flights of hydrogen-powered aircraft in New Zealand.

Vincenzo Claudio Piscopo
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Author

  • Vincenzo Claudio Piscopo

    Vincenzo graduated in 2019 in Mechanical Engineering with an aeronautical curriculum, focusing his thesis on Human Factors in aircraft maintenance. In 2022 he pursued his master's degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Palermo, Italy. He combines his journalistic activities with his work as a Reliability Engineer at Zetalab.

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