Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) and Universal Hydrogen Co. (UH2), both based in Los Angeles, have partnered to enable the aviation industry to decarbonize via zero-emission green hydrogen.

Green hydrogen is an ideal aviation fuel since it is a zero-emission, renewable resource that produces nothing except water when burned. Apart from nuclear fuels, it is also the most weight-efficient energy carrier available, delivering roughly four times the energy per unit of mass as conventional jet fuel.

The announcement comes on the heels of US President Joe Biden’s recognition of FFI as one of few companies to join his renowned ‘First Movers Coalition’ at the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow.

FFI and Universal Hydrogen have agreed on the following terms in their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU):

Negotiate a global offtake agreement with Universal Hydrogen under which FFI will supply green hydrogen to power regional and other aviation sectors until 2035;
Conduct a scoping study to determine the feasibility of establishing green hydrogen production and logistics centers in Iceland, New Zealand, and Southeast Queensland; and
Conduct a regional analysis of future green hydrogen demand in the aviation industry in order to discover and encourage green hydrogen adoption and uptake.

FFI Chairman, Dr Andrew Forrest AO said, “Universal Hydrogen has an ambitious plan to help fight climate change, with a goal of making hydrogen-powered commercial flights a reality – and FFI is committed to enabling that target.”

“Our collaboration lays the foundations for a zero-emissions aviation industry in the near- term future.

“Currently, aviation accounts for 2.5 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions, and emissions have doubled since the 1980s.

“Electrifying our planes will only go so far and will only be appropriate for smaller aircraft, due to current limitations around battery technologies. Green hydrogen, in contrast, is a practical solution we can use right now,” Dr Forrest said.

FFI Chief Executive Officer, Julie Shuttleworth AM said, “The demand for green hydrogen in the aviation industry is expected to grow exponentially as new climate targets are set globally.

“This deal reinforces that green hydrogen has the potential to be a powerful fuel for a range of difficult-to-decarbonise industries, including aviation,” Ms Shuttleworth said.

Universal Hydrogen CEO, Paul Eremenko, said, “This agreement will help ensure that we have adequate supply of green hydrogen globally to fuel not only regional aviation in the 2020s, but to support the entry into service of a hydrogen single aisle airplane in the 2030s.”

“We see green hydrogen as the only credible path for aviation to reach Paris Agreement emissions targets,” Mr Eremenko said.

“Through the investment of companies like FFI, we expect green hydrogen to be at cost parity with jet fuel on an equivalent energy basis by the mid-2020s, and to be significantly cheaper in the years that follow,” Mr Eremenko said.

Universal Hydrogen, in which FFI is also an early investor, is developing a modular capsule-based solution for hydrogen logistics in flight.

These capsules can be loaded with gaseous or liquid hydrogen and transported straight to airplanes via established freight networks and cargo handling equipment.

Additionally, Universal Hydrogen is creating a powertrain conversion kit that will enable regional passenger and freight aircraft to operate on hydrogen. Universal Hydrogen’s technology is expected to fly for the first time in 2022, with revenue services beginning in 2025.

FFI will be responsible for green hydrogen production and supply to selected markets or green hydrogen hubs, while Universal Hydrogen will be responsible for airport delivery logistics and on-airport fuel services.

FFI and Universal Hydrogen will collaborate to identify and create consumer demand for green hydrogen in the aviation industry.

Nedim Husomanovic

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