The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

11 Partners Selected To Support France's Hydrogen Hub Initiative

A coalition involving Airbus, Air France-KLM, Groupe ADP, and the Choose Paris Region development agency has selected 11 applicants to participate in an effort to set up a network of hydrogen hubs at airports to fuel future hydrogen-powered aircraft. The 11 were selected from 124 applicants that responded to the coalition’s call in February for expression of interest in the H2 Hub Airport initiative.

The groups called the development of hydrogen airport ecosystems an essential building block to pave the way for Airbus’s plans for bringing hydrogen aircraft to market by 2035. In addition, such a network can promote the use of hydrogen on the ground, they said.

The coalition sought expressions of interest involving three primary areas: production, storage, transport, and distribution of hydrogen in the airport environment (“upstream of the value chain”); diversification of hydrogen uses and services at airports and intermodal connections (“downstream of the value chain”); and, the circular economy around hydrogen, including recovery of dissipated hydrogen and byproducts.

The call was open to a range of entities from startups, academia, and consortiums to major industrial players. Philippe Boucly, chairman of France Hydrogène, and Emmanuel Julien, senior advisor at Enea Consulting, a firm specializing in energy transition, helped advise on the winning projects.

Selected projects provide a complementary approach addressing different aspects and timeframes for the H2 Hub Airport initiative. Some are in the research and development phase, while others were more advanced, the coalition said.

Participants will meet with the coalition organizations to work through issues and layout a roadmap of the projects in anticipation that onsite testing could begin in 2023.

"The success of this call for expressions of interest is proof of the growing interest for hydrogen technologies,” said Augustin de Romanet, chairman and CEO of Aéroports de Paris SA— Groupe ADP. “With all our partners, we are today laying the foundations of an ecosystem that will enable the progressive integration of this clean and sustainable energy carrier at Paris airports, transforming them into true hydrogen hubs."

Airbus executive v-p of engineering Jean-Brice Dumont agreed, saying, “I see a real interest in decarbonizing our industry as a whole, and the quality of the projects received and selected demonstrates this.”

The organizations selected in the area of production, storage, transportation, and delivery of hydrogen included the following: Air Liquide Advanced Technologies (France), which has developed a refueling truck with a large liquid hydrogen capacity; Ecodrome (France), a consortium that proposes to set up a multi-service supply station (hydrogen and electricity) on general aviation airfields that can be used by electric passenger aircraft and hybrid land vehicles; Geostock (France), which specializes in underground enginery storage; Hylandair (France), a consortium that has developed a gaseous hydrogen ecosystem for airside and landing uses including trucks, buses, buildings, and ground support equipment; Sakowin (France), which is developing compact reactors producing hydrogen; and, Universal Hydrogen (U.S.), a Californian start-up aiming to convert regional aircraft to hydrogen using modular liquid hydrogen capsules onboard the aircraft.

As for diversification of use cases in airports and in aeronautics, selected applicants include: Hydrogen for Airport Handling (France, Germany), a consortium of ground handlers that are designing hydrogen-powered ramp vehicles (aircraft tractor, loader, baggage tractor); Use-In H2 (France), a consortium that is supporting hydrogen deployment projects by proposing a risk analysis and recommendations on safety and security; and, Plug Power (U.S.), which develops and markets ground support vehicles powered by fuel cells.

And, selected for circular economy around hydrogen were Absolut System (France), a specialist in cryogenics applied to space and aeronautics that has developed solutions to optimize the quantity of hydrogen produced and stored, and Ways2H (U.S.), a startup with a patented approach for the local production of hydrogen from the reprocessing of waste.