Airports should start planning for the delivery and storage of hydrogen now in order to be ready to fuel hydrogen-powered aircraft by 2035, according to new research by US technical consultancy Jacobs.

Outlining a road map for airports to implement hydrogen-fuelling technologies, the report identifies three scenarios for supply and storage of hydrogen at airports: the delivery of liquid hydrogen directly to the airport by truck, the use of a hydrogen gas pipeline with on-site liquefaction, and the use of electrolysis for hydrogen production on-site at the airport.

It is thought hydrogen-powered aircraft could reduce an airport’s emissions by 50–75%. (Photo by joyfull via Shutterstock)

The study, Airports as Catalysts for Decarbonisation, recommends airports start with providing airside hydrogen gas storage and refuelling stations in time for the first flights, before developing more advanced liquid hydrogen storage and gas pipelines for fuelling aircraft by the early 2050s.

The hydrogen could power more than just the aircraft and airport infrastructure, Jacobs suggests. Hydrogen gas blending could power heating in terminals by the mid-2040s, which could eventually move to 100% hydrogen gas heating in the 2050s. If an airport is able to produce hydrogen through electrolysis on-site, it could become an energy hub for its local community.

The emissions generated from flights account for the lion’s share of an airport’s climate impact, but it is thought hydrogen-powered aircraft could reduce those emissions by 50–75%. Airbus is developing a hydrogen-combustion propulsion system the company hopes will power a net-zero commercial aircraft by 2035