HIA aims for zero carbon in aviation

By Ben Carey on 8 September, 2023

Leading aviation and renewable energy companies based in the South West have formed an alliance in a bid to decarbonise the aviation sector.

Bristol Airport, Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Ørsted, Easyjet and GKN Aerospace have formed the Hydrogen in Aviation alliance to focus on the opportunities hydrogen presents to the industry.

Hydrogen is a promising alternative-fuel option for short-haul aviation. Airbus is developing new hydrogen powered aircraft with the aim of entering commercial service from 2035 and Rolls-Royce has already proven that hydrogen could power a jet engine following successful ground tests in 2022.

Furthermore, many smaller operators are making rapid progress on hydrogen-powered aircraft, notably ZeroAvia and Universal Hydrogen who have already carried out flight tests.

HIA will be drawing on the group’s considerable expertise to propose a clear and deliverable pathway to achieving hydrogen-powered aviation, working with Government, local authorities and the aviation and hydrogen sectors.

The ambition is for the UK to become a world-leader in this field and to set the standards and regulations for others to follow.

Dave Lees, CEO of Bristol Airport, said, “We’re proud to be part of this new alliance, coming together to call for action now so hydrogen flight can become a reality in the future. The potential opportunities of hydrogen flight are huge – most of Bristol Airport’s routes could be served by zero emissions aircraft and our region is uniquely positioned to become a global centre for the new technology, creating thousands of new aerospace jobs.”

To support the aim, the alliance says that the Government needs to be focused on three key areas: supporting the delivery of the infrastructure needed for the UK to be a global leader; ensuring the aviation regulatory regime is hydrogen ready; and transforming the funding for hydrogen aviation R&D support into a 10-year programme.

Grazia Vittadini, Chief Technology Officer at Rolls-Royce, said, “Collaboration is key when it comes to achieving our net zero ambitions as an industry, which is why we are proud to be part of the Hydrogen in Aviation Alliance.

“Our contribution to HIA is the capability and experience we have in pioneering new technologies and solutions – we have already tested a modern aero engine on green hydrogen and we strongly believe it is one of the solutions that will help decarbonise aviation in the mid to long-term.”

Sabine Klauke, Chief Technology Officer at Airbus, said, “As Airbus continues to mature the aircraft technologies needed to deliver hydrogen-powered flight, a united industry voice is needed to secure a robust ecosystem of renewably-sourced hydrogen. Joining our peers from across the UK aviation landscape in a targeted approach to policy and investment action brings us closer to a decarbonised future of flying.”

Experts suggest that hydrogen powered aviation will be critical in delivering net zero, whilst also providing a significant boost to the UK economy.

The Department for Transport’s Jet Zero Strategy states that rapid investment in hydrogen aviation could see the UK securing 60,000 new jobs. Recent projections from Hydrogen UK predicts that hydrogen could contribute to £18bn GVA and help meet up to 50% of our energy demand by 2050.

The rate of research and development within the UK means that the aviation sector is already in an advanced position to take advantage of this significant opportunity. For instance, last year saw the first ground test of a fully hydrogen-powered jet engine and the first hydrogen powered narrow-body aircraft is expected to be ready for short-haul flights across the UK and Europe by 2035.