Innovative aviation liquid hydrogen project launched

An innovative aviation hydrogen handling and refuelling project, led by Airbus and supported by academic partners, airport operators and leading hydrogen-industry companies, has been launched to demonstrate small-scale liquid hydrogen aircraft ground operations at three European airports.

The urge to decarbonise our economy and to develop Europe’s energy independence is leading to a major trend of hydrogen for mobility and stationary applications. Hydrogen will also be a solution to decarbonise short- and medium-haul aviation and will be crucial for the advancement of low-carbon aviation operations.

“The GOLIAT (Ground Operations of LIquid hydrogen AircrafT) project will receive funding of €10.8 million from the EU’s Horizon Europe Framework Programme via CINEA, the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency. The project duration is four years and it will demonstrate how high-flow liquid hydrogen (LH2) handling and refuelling technologies can be developed and used safely and reliably for airport operations.

The GOLIAT consortium consists of 10 partners from eight countries: Airbus (France, Germany, UK), Chart Industries (Czech Republic, Italy), TU Delft (Netherlands), Leibniz University Hannover (Germany), Royal Schiphol Group (Netherlands), Rotterdam The Hague Airport (Netherlands), Vinci Airports (France, Portugal), Stuttgart Airport (Germany), H2FLY (Germany), and Budapest Airport (Hungary). 

The group will support the aviation industry’s adoption of LH2 transportation and energy storage solutions by:

  • Developing and demonstrating LH2 refuelling technologies scaled-up for future large commercial aircraft;
  • Demonstrating small-scale LH2 aircraft ground operations at airports;
  • Developing the standardisation and certification framework for future LH2 operations;
  • Assessing the sizing and economics of the hydrogen value chains for airports.

As a clean and efficient fuel, LH2 offers a promising solution for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with airport operations and their dependence on fossil fuels. LH2’s high energy density enables long-range travel for aircraft, yet there are many steps to the widespread deployment of hydrogen at airports, including the need to better understand the operational, regulatory, economic and safety impacts, as well as the capacity and performance of technologies. 

Karine Guenan, Vice President of ZEROe Ecosystem, Airbus:

“We continue to believe that hydrogen will be an important fuel for the future of short-haul aviation. We welcome the opportunity to help build the operating case for the widespread daily use of liquid hydrogen at airports.”

Josef Kallo, co-founder and CEO, H2FLY:

“Leveraging our experience in the HEAVEN project, where we completed the world’s first piloted flight of a liquid hydrogen-powered electric aircraft, we look forward to contributing our expertise in LH2 operations to GOLIAT. We believe in the potential of hydrogen to transform aviation and are committed to supporting its adoption for a sustainable future. GOLIAT marks another important step in our journey toward decarbonizing the aviation industry, and we are excited to be part of this important initiative.”

Jill Evanko, CEO and President, Chart Industries, Inc.:

“It is a privilege to work with the esteemed GOLIAT Consortium partners and progress decarbonization in heavy transport through the value chain,” stated Jill Evanko, Chart’s CEO and President.  “With over 158 years of experience in hydrogen technology, process and equipment, we are excited to share our expertise to further progress the liquid hydrogen application in mobility and transport as well as the associated infrastructure.”

Alexei Sharpanskykh, Elise Bavelaar, and Pieter-Jan Proesmans, Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, TU Delft:

“At Delft University of Technology, we are researching various aspects of hydrogen-powered aviation since this energy carrier shows great potential to reduce aviation’s climate impact. To facilitate this transition, we should develop suitable airport infrastructure and operations. As a partner in the GOLIAT project, we look forward to creating operational concepts and computational models for airport ground operations of hydrogen-powered aircraft, considering the airline’s perspective. This way, we can help airports and airlines prepare for future hydrogen aircraft and contribute to a more sustainable aviation ecosystem.”

Richard Hanke-Rauschenbach, Head of Institute of Electric Power Systems, Leibniz University Hannover:

“We are very pleased to join the GOLIAT team and to contribute our expertise on techno-economics of green LH2 supply infrastructures to the project. Such demonstrators are not only an important step towards making H2-powered aviation a reality, but also provide valuable insights for the future development of a cost effective and reliable LH2 supply chain. Identifying the requirements for the infrastructure as early as possible is crucial to the success of our joint efforts towards a more climate-friendly air transport system.”

Wilma van Dijk, CEO Rotterdam The Hague Airport:

“We are very delighted to be a partner of the GOLIAT project and to host one of the demonstrations at Rotterdam The Hague Airport. As part of the Royal Schiphol Group, we strongly believe that hydrogen, alongside sustainable aviation fuels and electric flight, is one of the potential energy carriers to decarbonize aviation. However, there are many challenges that need to be addressed on multiple fronts in order to fully realise the potential of hydrogen aviation, including refuelling of hydrogen aircraft. As a regional airport, we’re at the forefront of hydrogen aviation initiatives, with multiple projects underway in collaboration with various partners in our region. The GOLIAT project aligns seamlessly with our hydrogen roadmap, serving as a crucial step towards the preparation and integration of hydrogen aviation within our airport environment.” 

Ulrich Heppe, CEO, Stuttgart Airport:

“The decarbonization of aviation poses a significant challenge for all of us. At the same time, we now have the opportunity to collectively contribute to enabling sustainable travel. From the outset, it has been clear to us in Stuttgart that hydrogen will play a central role. At Stuttgart Airport we see our role as an enabler, working with partners to find solutions early on that can be implemented on a large scale. With GOLIAT, we take a major step forward that will empower airports and airlines to transform aviation in the next years.”

Kam Jandu, Chief Executive Officer, Budapest Airport:

“To achieve the ambitious goal of climate neutrality, all aviation stakeholders need to reduce their carbon emissions, and this requires effective technological and operational developments. At Budapest Airport, we have set ourselves the goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2035 at the latest, and we are continuously taking steps to achieve this,” said Kam Jandu, chief executive officer of Budapest Airport. He added: “As a responsible airport operator, we are pleased to join the GOLIAT project in line with our sustainability ambitions. We believe that developing a systematic and consistent approach to the introduction of hydrogen at airports is key to the green transformation and decarbonization of aviation.

Nicolas Notebaert, Chief Executive Officer of VINCI Concessions and President of VINCI Airports:

“Committed to support and accelerate on the decarbonation of air transport, VINCI Airports is acting to develop the use of hydrogen in airports. We are pleased to combine our expertise in this innovative airport ground operation for hydrogen-powered aircraft project. By 2027, the Lyon-Saint Exupery airport will receive and conclude the demo of this pilot project with a first Hydrogen Plane. Meanwhile, airports we operate in Portugal are also involved in the technical studies of this project for the futures infrastructures that will be required.”


The benefits of hydrogen in aviation

Hydrogen is a high-potential technology with a specific energy-per-unit mass that is three times higher than traditional jet fuel. If generated from renewable energy through electrolysis, hydrogen emits no CO2 emissions, thereby enabling renewable energy to potentially power large aircraft over long distances without the undesirable by-product of CO2 emissions.

Because hydrogen has a lower volumetric energy density, the visual appearance of future aircraft will likely change to better accommodate hydrogen storage solutions that will be bulkier than existing jet fuel storage tanks.

Hydrogen has been safely used in the aerospace and automobile industries for decades. The aviation industry’s challenge is to adapt this decarbonised energy carrier to commercial aviation’s needs. 

There are two primary uses for hydrogen:

Hydrogen propulsion: Hydrogen can be combusted through modified gas-turbine engines or converted into electrical power that complements the gas turbine via fuel cells. The combination of both creates a highly efficient hybrid-electric propulsion chain powered entirely by hydrogen.

Synthetic fuels: Hydrogen can be used to create e-fuels, which are generated exclusively through renewable energy. 

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