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New Zealand Hydrogen Aviation Consortium Unveils Latest Report

Airbus’ ZEROe Concept Aircraft Formation Flight. (Rendering: Airbus)

A new report entitled ‘Launching Green Hydrogen Powered Aviation in Aotearoa New Zealand’ outlines the collaborative effort, started in February 2023, by the New Zealand Hydrogen Aviation Consortium, comprised of six international entities: Airbus, Air New Zealand, Christchurch Airport, Fortescue, Hiringa Energy, and Fabrum. This comprehensive study delves into the potential for hydrogen-fueled aircraft to reduce up to 900,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually by 2050 on New Zealand’s domestic flight routes.

Over six months of research, the consortium explored the hydrogen supply chain, assessed the local aviation market’s hydrogen demands, and formulated recommendations for regulations and incentives crucial to supporting the shift toward a green hydrogen aviation system.

Why New Zealand?

New Zealand’s suitability for transitioning to hydrogen-powered aviation can be attributed to several key factors. Firstly, limited alternatives like intercity trains and modest road infrastructure make air travel essential, with New Zealanders ranking 15th globally in flights per capita. The country’s domestic flight routes align well with electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft, offering zero-carbon solutions. New Zealand benefits from abundant renewable energy resources, allowing for increased electricity generation to support future carbon-zero and carbon-neutral fuels.

Moreover, New Zealand’s remote location necessitates heavy reliance on aviation, emphasizing the need to reduce emissions for international trade competitiveness. This transition requires a mix of bio-sustainable aviation fuels (bioSAF) and electronic sustainable aviation fuels (eSAF) for long-haul flights.

According to the consortium’s modeling, New Zealand could consume up to 100,000 tonnes of green hydrogen annually for hydrogen-fueled aircraft by 2050, primarily at major airports like Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. To generate this green hydrogen, an estimated 6,700 gigawatt hours of renewable energy, equivalent to about 16% of New Zealand’s current electricity supply will be required.

Airbus is actively developing the world’s first commercial hydrogen aircraft. Karine Guenan, Vice President of Airbus’ ZEROe Ecosystem, emphasized New Zealand’s unique potential to lead in testing and deploying low-carbon aircraft due to its abundant renewable energy resources, water availability, and the compatibility of its aircraft fleet and route lengths with hydrogen-powered aircraft.

The fuel options to reduce emissions

The report outlined several critical requirements for enabling green hydrogen aviation in New Zealand, including scaling up renewable energy generation, developing transmission and distribution infrastructure, ensuring safe hydrogen production, and enhancing cost-effectiveness.

The New Zealand Hydrogen Aviation Consortium aims to pave the way for adopting green hydrogen in aviation and transform New Zealand’s airports into hydrogen hubs, producing green hydrogen locally through water electrolysis using renewable electricity.

The global aviation sector is increasingly considering three fuel options to reduce emissions: green hydrogen, battery-electric technology, and sustainable aviation fuel. New Zealand’s commercial aviation sector is likely to employ all three options. Green hydrogen-powered aircraft are suitable for short distances and can complement small battery-electric aircraft. Larger aircraft flying longer distances will rely on sustainable aviation fuel.

You can find the report here.

Vincenzo Claudio Piscopo
Latest posts by Vincenzo Claudio Piscopo (see all)


  • 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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