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H2 to be a potential enabler to Singapore’s aviation decarbonization

The Singapore Hydrogen Cooperation Committee sees H2 fuel playing a potential role in the state’s aviation decarbonization journey.

The working group was formed following the signing of the Cooperation Agreement by Airbus, Changi Airport Group, Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), and Linde in February 2022. Since then, the committee has examined regional and local market demand and supply for H2, the H2 supply chain and infrastructure requirements, and the potential considerations for establishing a successful H2 ecosystem for aviation in the city-state.

The technology to use liquid H2 to power aircraft is currently under development and will only be applied on future generations of large commercial aircraft. The early technical feasibility study undertaken by the committee is useful to ensure that when the technology becomes mature and feasible, Singapore will be well prepared to incorporate liquid H2 as part of its aviation decarbonization strategy.

“Stakeholders in the Asia-Pacific region are increasingly taking greater interest in making significant investments into H2, developing new technologies and establishing supply chains. Together with our partners, we recognize the potential of H2 becoming a longer-term decarbonization pathway for aircraft operations, complementing sustainable aviation fuel, in support of our transition towards net zero by 2050,” said Sabine Klauke, Chief Technology Officer, Airbus.

As part of the study, the committee has identified infrastructure scenarios that could support the progressive deployment of a large-scale supply of liquid H2 for aviation at Changi Airport in the longer-term future. Singapore’s aviation sector may consume up to 50 tpd of liquid H2 from the 2040s, and up to 600 tpd beyond 2050. These scenarios are based on future H2 aircraft with capacities of 100 to 200 passengers, operating range of 1,000 to 2,000 nautical miles, entering service between 2035 and 2040 in Singapore.

While a 2,000 NM range from Singapore’s Changi Airport would allow an aircraft to reach about 74 airports in 20 Asia-Pacific countries and territories, the committee highlighted that other key factors such as the H2 readiness levels at potential destination airports and airlines’ commercial considerations would also be important to realize the eventual H2-powered flights between Changi Airport and other airports in the region.

Han Kok Juan, Director-General of CAAS, said, “The International Civil Aviation Organization Member States have adopted a collective long-term global aspirational goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. While the near-term focus is on the wider adoption of sustainable aviation fuels in aircraft operations, H2 can potentially play a complementary role as a sustainable energy fuel in the longer term. CAAS has shared some of the key findings from the study with relevant government agencies for longer-term national planning for demand of H2 and will continue to monitor signposts around the development of H2 technology for aircraft operations.”

Poh Li San, Senior Vice President, Terminal 5 Specialized Systems, Changi Airport Group said, “H2 technology is still in its nascency, with many uncertainties and the industry is working hard to study aspects such as operations, safety, regulation and economics. These need to be examined further. As the aviation industry progresses on its sustainability journey, it is prudent to take a phased approach as air hubs study how best to support the use of H2 by aircraft.”

“H2 has a key role to play in the global clean energy transition. In aviation, H2 shows promise on two fronts: reducing aircraft emissions in the air, and decarbonizing airside ground activities,” said John Panikar, EVP and CEO APAC, Linde. “Linde has over 100 years of experience with H2. Our business spans the entire global H2 value chain, and we look forward to leveraging our capabilities to further develop the promise of H2 in aviation.”

To enable H2 powered aviation to take-off when the technology, regulations, infrastructure and supply chains are ready, the committee also agreed that it was important to continue monitoring the development of H2 technology for aviation around the following signposts:

  • Technology: Monitor H2 aircraft technology maturity and develop related signposts, including the launch of Airbus’ ZEROe aircraft demonstrator in 2027
  • Concept of operations (CONOPs): Monitor development of associated CONOPs for logistics, storage, onsite distribution and refueling of liquid H2 in an airport environment
  • Regulations: Monitor development of safety regulatory frameworks and standards around the use of liquid H2 for aircraft operations
  • H2 supply chain and airport infrastructure: Monitor development of robust and commercial-scale liquid H2 supply chain compatible with an airport (from import, storage, and onward distribution network to aircraft)
  • Readiness of other airports for liquid H2 aircraft operations
  • Relative price of liquid H2 as an alternative aircraft fuel.