Aviation H2 has the afterburners on as it seeks to have Australia’s first hydrogen-powered plane flying by 2023 – and its efforts have not gone unnoticed.
The company has fielded interest from several large corporates interested in seeing how its patentable hydrogen conversion tech could fit in their goals of decarbonising their fleets sooner rather than later and without having to replace existing planes.
That Aviation H2 has settled on liquid ammonia as the preferred hydrogen carrier – due to its myriad of advantages over liquefied hydrogen – is another plus in the company’s favour as it is a familiar chemical with existing levels of production.
Storage and transport infrastructure for ammonia already exists and enjoys a substantial market in Australia and overseas.
Hydrogen – and ammonia – have several advantages over batteries for the sector, chief of which are the weight of batteries and the amount of power and time required to recharge them, especially when you are trying to turn flights around quickly.
“You couldn’t build enough power stations around Sydney airport to supply that kind of energy,” director Dr Helmut Mayer told Stockhead previously.
Interest has also been received from big corporates for potential collaboration into solutions for decarbonising the aviation industry.
The growing interest follows 100 national governments, cities, states and major businesses signing the Glasgow Declaration on Zero-Emission Cars and Vans to end the sale of internal combustion engines by 2035 following the COP26 conference in October last year.
While the agreement covers ground vehicles, it nonetheless provides a clear vision towards a shift away from fossil fuels for the aviation sector once technology progresses, particularly with the International Air Transport Association committing to net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.
Further pressure comes from the US seeking to lower aviation emissions by 20% by 2030 and all EU countries joining the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, which will see companies offset around 80% of the emissions above 2020 levels.
With its rapid progress on developing technology that can convert existing jet engines to carbon-free liquid ammonia, the push towards decarbonisation provides Aviation H2 with a massive opportunity to work with jet engine manufacturers with their transitions before the need to change becomes urgent.
The company will also seek to create hydrogen conversion hangars strategically located in jet aircraft hubs across the world to target large fleet owners with an initial focus on North America, which has the highest concentration of jets in the world, before expanding to Europe and Asia.
Potential customers will be able to fly their plane in and have it converted into one that operates on carbon-free fuel.
Aviation H2 currently has an agreement with Australian specialist charter flight operator FalconAir which allows it to carry out the prototype conversion work at its partner’s facility at Bankstown.
This also allows the company to benefit from FalconAir’s familiarity with the Dassault Falcon 50 business jet, chosen to test its technology on.
Its conversion work is progressing well with Dr Mayer telling Stockhead that test work with its tubular combustion chamber is moving forward and will help the company fully understand the parameters that have to be in placed on the engine to make sure the liquid ammonia-powered flame burns steadily.
Data from this phase will allow Aviation H2 to make decisions about the fuel mix configuration – and other areas – which it will then use to modify the test engines that it is in the process of acquiring from the US.
While these engines will not be used for flight testing, they will be used to demonstrate the full range of operation, which will allow the company to perform the same modifications on an existing aircraft and begin test flights.
“Once we have flown successful test flights, we will have proven the viability of our conversion technology and expand our offering to include other jets and engines,” Dr Mayer added.