According to the International Air Transport Association, the global aviation sector may use 15% to 20% of the world’s predicted 600 million tonnes of hydrogen by 2050 for the development of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) and to power new aircraft (Iata).
Hemant Mistry, Iata’s director of the energy transition, stated in Geneva that the industry is expected to use about 100 megatonnes of hydrogen for the production of SAF and 20 mega tonnes for hydrogen-powered aircraft if they enter service by 2035. This is in order to help airlines reach their goal of net zero emissions by the middle of the century.
Although it will be required to increase hydrogen production to meet aviation needs, just 3% of the predicted global supply of hydrogen for aircraft propulsion will be used by 2050, according to Mr. Mistry.
“Various national strategies for the scale-up of renewable energy and hydrogen must take aviation into account.”
One of the many competing technologies that might assist the aviation sector in achieving its objective of becoming net zero by 2050 is hydrogen.
A jet engine driven by hydrogen fuel underwent a successful trial, according to UK-based Rolls Royce, last month. Green hydrogen produced by wind and tidal energy was used in the ground test.
As part of larger plans for a hydrogen-powered aircraft that is slated to enter service by 2035, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus announced last week that it is building a fuel-cell engine.
Even though hydrogen has three times the greater energy density than jet fuel, it still needs 4.5 times as much space to be stored in liquid form, where the temperature must be below minus-250°C.
According to Mr. Mistry, this creates both new challenges and opportunities for the decarbonization of aviation.
According to him, refueling the aircraft will be difficult and different from refueling regular airplanes.
On the other side, because the fuel will not be stored in the wing as it is at the moment, the wings can be lighter and thinner with greater aerodynamics.
According to Mr. Mistry, the anticipated launch of small modified aircraft seating 19 to 50 passengers by 2030 could expedite the usage of hydrogen in aviation.
Airbus intends to introduce a hydrogen-powered aircraft after 2035, which could lead to an increase in fuel demand.
According to Iata, major aircraft and engine producers around the world have spent around $4.5 billion on research and development pertaining to the use of hydrogen for aviation.
According to Mr. Mistry, the trade organization identified 15 airlines that have shown interest in hydrogen through investments in technology businesses, collaborations with developers, or even by attempting to overcome some obstacles.
Iata also kept tabs on 15 airports that were in various stages of development; some were already using hydrogen for purposes other than aviation; others had carried out feasibility studies; still, others had plans to use hydrogen in collaboration with hydrogen suppliers and aircraft producers.
According to Mr. Mistry, Iata anticipates a “dramatic reduction” in the price of hydrogen production following the maturation and expansion of green hydrogen facilities as well as the decline in the price of renewable energy production.
‘Tipping Point’ for SAF
Iata believes that SAF will be the biggest factor in achieving the net zero target, thus production must significantly increase from its current pitiful levels.
According to Iata, SAF output would expand by 200 percent from 2021 production levels of 100 million liters to at least 300 million liters in 2022. According to their more upbeat predictions, overall production in 2022 might reach 450 million liters.
Iata stated that despite an increase from 0.04 percent last year, SAF’s production will still only account for 0.1% of the world’s total jet fuel output this year.
Airlines used every last bit of SAF that was available, even at very expensive costs, thus Mr. Mistry remarked that we immediately need to boost up production again.
Iata determined that 24 million tonnes (30 billion liters) would be the “tipping point” for SAF production in order to achieve its objectives.
To fulfill the industry’s 2050 vision, the output must increase 4,500 times from the low baseline of SAF in 2021; but, if the 2030 tipping point is reached, the sector has two decades to increase SAF use 15-fold, a more realistic goal, according to Mr. Mistry.
The trade group urged governments to support the development of SAF and take into account the requirements of the aviation sector.
Airlines will need money to support their energy shift, including buying SAF and investing in more energy-efficient aircraft.
The airlines must provide credible, transparent ESG (environmental, social, and governance) data to financial institutions in order for lenders to access financing and make informed judgments.
However, according to Emi Mima, manager of sustainable finance at Iata, the data needs for sustainability reporting are currently somewhat “fragmented.”
According to Ms. Mima, Iata is developing ESG Metrics Guidance for Airlines to assist them with sustainability disclosures, foster more confidence with lenders, and secure access to green funding.
By the start of 2023, the industry group anticipates publishing the report online.
Increased travel costs because of the energy transition
Willie Walsh, the director general of Iata, predicted that as the sector works toward achieving its objective of net zero by 2050, airfares will rise.
This year, airlines increased ticket prices in order to cover the increasing cost of conventional jet fuel.
You cannot expect an industry that generates $1 in profit per client on average to take in the increases we’ve seen, according to Mr. Walsh.
“As the industry moves toward net zero, there must be an impact on ticket prices as we see increases in carbon costs going forward. The airlines cannot withstand rising costs.”