Getting hydrogen in airports – Who are the 11 H2 HUB Airport initiative winners making it happen?

May 30, 2021 |

If you haven’t heard of the H2 HUB Airport initiative, there are some big names in the sustainable aviation industry who got together to launch this program and explore the opportunities offered by hydrogen and to boost air transport decarburization. We’re talkin’ Airbus, Air France-KLM, Groupe ADP, the Île-de-France Region and Choose Paris Region coming together to look at getting hydrogen into airport ecosystems.

In today’s Digest, a look at the 11 winners like Ways2H, Air Liquide’s Advanced Technologies, Hylandair, Sakowin, and others, what each of them brings to the table, what the initiative is all about, why and how they plan on getting hydrogen into airport ecosystems, and more.

The initiative

First, some background on the H2 HUB Airport initiative. Maybe you heard of their call for expressions of interest back in February, but if you didn’t, they asked for folks to send in applications focused on these three things:

  1. Upstream of the value chain: production, storage, transport and distribution of hydrogen (gaseous and liquid) in the airport environment (storage systems, micro-liquefaction, aircraft fueling, etc.);
  2. Downstream of the value chain: diversification of hydrogen uses and services in airport and aeronautical (ground handling vehicles and equipment, rail transport at airports, energy supply for buildings or aircraft during ground handling operations, etc.);
  3. Circular economy around hydrogen (recovery of hydrogen dissipated during liquid hydrogen fueling, recovery of a by-product from a reaction to produce decarbonized hydrogen, etc.).

This initiative, with an international dimension and unprecedented in the air transport industry, received 124 applications and of those, 11 winners have been selected to contribute to the surge of the hydrogen airport ecosystem of tomorrow. We’ll get to the winners in a minute.

Let’s talk about why they launched this initiative in the first place – “The energy transition in air transport is underway and the hydrogen airport ecosystem is one of the essential operational building blocks to shape the arrival of the Airbus hydrogen aircraft planned for 2035, while promoting the short-term development of hydrogen uses on the ground.” Yes, that’s right, Airbus should have a hydrogen aircraft in 2035 – makes sense then that they are one of the big players behind this H2 HUB Airport initiative and have a very vested interest in its success.

How did they choose the winners?

The “H2 HUB AIRPORT” call for expressions of interest allowed for the auditioning of major industrial players, SMEs, startups and entities from the academic and research world, sometimes gathered in consortium. To select the winners, the jury relied on the expertise of Philippe Boucly, Chairman of France Hydrogène, and Emmanuel Julien, Senior Advisor at Enea Consulting, a firm specialising in energy transition.

The 11 winning projects are key building blocks for the building and the expansion of the hydrogen value chain in an airport environment and, through their complementarity, cover all the specific issues for an airport ecosystem, with different timeframes: some projects are in the R&D phase, while others, more advanced, could be subject of displays or commissioning in the medium term.

What next?

Over the next few weeks, working meetings between partners and winners will be held to discuss the issues at stake, to share roadmaps of the various projects. The purpose is to contribute to surging long-term solutions that are economically feasible, and to be able to carry out the first on-site experiments from 2023.

And the winners are…

Ok, let’s get to the part everyone wants to know about – who are these 11 hydrogen super stars and what are they bringing to the table? They are:

For production, storage, transportation and delivery of hydrogen:

– Air Liquide Advanced Technologies (France): this Air Liquide’s subsidiary has developed a refueling truck with a large liquid hydrogen capacity;
– Ecodrome (France): this consortium, formed by 3 partners, proposes to set up a multi-service supply station (hydrogen and electricity) on general aviation airfields that can be used, for example, by electric passenger aircraft and hybrid land vehicles;
– Geostock (France): this engineering group specialising in underground energy storage works on a  very large hydrogen storage solutions in lined mined cavities;
– Hylandair (France): this consortium of 4 industrialists has developed a gaseous hydrogen ecosystem for use as well on land side (trucks, buses, tippers, energy supply for buildings) and air side (passenger shuttle buses, ground support equipment, etc.);
– Sakowin (France): this company is developing compact reactors producing hydrogen in a decarbonized manner, based on an innovative technology using methane;
– Universal Hydrogen (United States): this Californian start-up aims to convert regional aircraft to hydrogen using modular liquid hydrogen capsules on board the aircraft.

For diversification of use cases in airports and in aeronautics:

– Hydrogen for Airport Handling (France, Germany): this consortium of 6 operating in the field of ground handling is designing hydrogen-powered ramp vehicles (aircraft tractor, loader, baggage tractor);
– Use-In H2 (France): this consortium, bringing together 3 public partners including the DGAC, supports hydrogen deployment projects by proposing a risk analysis and recommendations on safety and security. It also assesses the sustainability of the solutions implemented;
– Plug Power (United States): this company develops and markets ground support vehicles powered by fuel cells.

For circular economy around hydrogen:

– Absolut System (France): this specialist in cryogenics applied to space and aeronautics has developed solutions to optimize the quantity of hydrogen produced and stored via, in particular, systems for recovering dissipated hydrogen and mobile refrigeration;
– Ways2H (United States): this startup offers a patented solution for the local production of hydrogen from the reprocessing of waste, including organic and plastic waste, which is then gasified.

Reactions from the stakeholders

Augustin de Romanet, Charmain and of Aéroports de Paris SA – Groupe ADP: “The success of this call for expressions of interest is proof of the growing interest for hydrogen technologies. With all our partners, we are today laying the foundations of an ecosystem that will enable the progressive integration of this clean and sustainable energy carrier at Paris airports, transforming them into true hydrogen hubs. Our ambition is also to develop new uses around ground mobility, both airside and landside.”

Jean-Brice Dumont, Executive Vice President Engineering at Airbus: “I see a real interest in decarbonising our industry as a whole, and the quality of the projects received and selected demonstrates this. Hydrogen is a major lever for aviation to reach its emission reduction targets. Our ambition is to play a pioneering role in this field and to support all the initiatives and skills that will enable us to collectively meet this challenge.”

Anne-Sophie Le LayExecutive Vice President, corporate secretary of Air France-KLM“The Air France-KLM Group is convinced that the use of new energies such as hydrogen is an essential component of the energy transition. By writing the history of sustainable travel together, we are enabling future generations to travel freely and responsibly. The winners selected today are pioneers who will contribute within our ecosystem to the transformation of our sector. I would like to honour their commitment, innovative spirit and enthusiasm.”

Valérie Pécresse, Chairwoman of Paris Île-de-France Region: “We are pleased by the success of this call for expressions of interest, which will contribute in making Paris Region a territory for the deployment of hydrogen. These projects will contribute to create a robust sector, serving the different uses of this energy of the future that enables us to meet the challenge of decarbonization of transportation.”

Franck Margain, President of Choose Paris Region: “This call for expressions of interest has been a great international success. 50% of the applications received came from abroad. Thanks to the efficiency of the collaboration between public and private players, we are contributing to the implementation of new solutions that will very quickly meet the energy transition objectives of the Paris Region and its international attractiveness.”

Bottom Line

Congratulations to the winners and stay tuned for more info coming out from this hydrogen initiative as we see this as a first step in increasing the role of hydrogen in the aviation industry.

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