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A Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) report has revealed that clean hydrogen can significantly reduce aviation emissions, with the potential benefits seen within five years. 

Opportunities for hydrogen in commercial aviation, which had technical input and funding from The Boeing Company, reports that growing hydrogen industry momentum could provide an opportunity to introduce hydrogen for niche airport applications, such as ground support equipment, as early as 2025.

By 2035, hydrogen could provide much deeper decarbonisation when used in conjunction with existing airport and aircraft infrastructure, and could then support a complete transition from conventional jet fuel around 2050.

CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Larry Marshall, said the disruption to air travel caused by COVID-19 had caused the industry to rethink their paradigm and recover to a different “normal”.

“As we see travel resume, hydrogen presents a key solution to enable a sustainable recovery for the industry using liquid renewable fuel, and to grow future resilience from threats like oil shocks,” Dr Marshall said.

“CSIRO’s 2018 breakthrough in fuelling hydrogen-powered cars with liquid renewable fuel has created opportunities for industries to supercharge their decarbonisation by investing in hydrogen.

“Science becomes real in the hands of visionary partners like Boeing who are willing to embrace science to support the development of a whole new sustainable and resilient industry that supports a green recovery.”

The global aviation industry consumes 3.2 times more energy than the whole of Australia each year and has widely adopted a target of reducing their emissions by 50 per cent based on 2005 levels, with no net increase after 2020.

A range of sustainable fuels could assist in meeting the emissions target, and hydrogen-based fuels represented a key path to sustainable transport.

General Manager of Boeing Research & Technology – Australia, Michael Edwards, said the aviation industry was committed to reducing net CO2 emissions.

“Boeing is committed to building a more sustainable future and we, along with the broader aviation sector, are committed to achieving the aviation industry goal of halving CO2 net emissions by 2050 relative to 2005 levels,” Mr Edwards said.

“In addition to more efficient aircraft, sustainable aviation fuels like hydrogen are a necessary contributor to the decarbonisation of aviation, and we are committed to furthering their development.”

While COVID-19 has had a major impact on the sector, the report takes a long-term view, presenting a meaningful way to recover while prioritising sustainability.

CSIRO’s 2018 National Hydrogen Roadmap noted that Australia’s hydrogen industry is set for rapid scale-up, with cost competitiveness within reach.

This new report examines global applications, while highlighting the opportunity for national demonstration projects and continued innovation.

CSIRO is undertaking a broad range of hydrogen-related research, with a focus on reducing emissions associated with transport, energy production, and exports.

You can read the full report at Energy and Resources: Opportunities for hydrogen in commercial aviation.

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