Airbus leads innovative aviation hydrogen handling and refueling project in Europe.

Brussels, 16 May 2024 – An innovative aviation hydrogen handling and refueling project, led by Airbus and supported by academic partners, airport operators and leading hydrogen-industry companies, has been launched to demonstrate small-scale liquid hydrogen aircraft ground operations at three European airports.

The urge to decarbonize our economy and to develop Europe’s energy independence is leading to a major trend of hydrogen for mobility and stationary applications. Hydrogen will also be a solution to decarbonize short- and medium-haul aviation and will be crucial for the advancement of low-carbon aviation operations.

The GOLIAT (Ground Operations of LIquid Hydrogen AircrafT) project* will receive funding of €10.8 million from the EU’s Horizon Europe Framework Program via CINEA, the European Climate, Infrastructure, and Environment Executive Agency. The project duration is four years, and it will demonstrate how high-flow liquid hydrogen (LH2) handling and refueling technologies can be developed and used safely and reliably for airport operations.

The GOLIAT consortium consists of 10 partners from eight countries: Airbus (France, Germany, UK), Chart Industries (Czech Republic, Italy), TU Delft (Netherlands), Leibniz University Hannover (Germany), Royal Schiphol Group (Netherlands), Rotterdam The Hague Airport (Netherlands), Vinci Airports (France, Portugal), Stuttgart Airport (Germany), H2FLY (Germany), and Budapest Airport (Hungary).

The group will support the aviation industry’s adoption of LH2 transportation and energy storage solutions by:

  • Developing and demonstrating LH2 refueling technologies scaled-up for future large commercial aircraft;
  • Demonstrating small-scale LH2 aircraft ground operations at airports;
  • Developing the standardisation and certification framework for future LH2 operations;
  • Assessing the size and economics of the hydrogen value chains for airports.

As a clean and efficient fuel, LH2 offers a promising solution for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with airport operations and their dependence on fossil fuels. LH2’s high energy density enables long-range travel for aircraft, yet there are many steps to the widespread deployment of hydrogen at airports, including the need to better understand the operational, regulatory, economic, and safety impacts, as well as the capacity and performance of technologies.

“We continue to believe that hydrogen will be an important fuel for the future of short-haul aviation. We welcome the opportunity to help build the operating case for the widespread daily use of liquid hydrogen at airports.”

Karine Guenan, Vice President of ZEROe Ecosystem, Airbus:

“Leveraging our experience in the HEAVEN project, where we completed the world’s first piloted flight of a liquid hydrogen-powered electric aircraft, we look forward to contributing our expertise in LH2 operations to GOLIAT. We believe in the potential of hydrogen to transform aviation and are committed to supporting its adoption for a sustainable future. GOLIAT marks another important step in our journey toward decarbonizing the aviation industry, and we are excited to be part of this important initiative.”

Josef Kallo, co-founder and CEO, H2FLY:

The benefits of hydrogen in aviation

Hydrogen is a high-potential technology with a specific energy-per-unit mass that is three times higher than traditional jet fuel. If generated from renewable energy through electrolysis, hydrogen emits no CO2 emissions, thereby enabling renewable energy to potentially power large aircraft over long distances without the undesirable by-product of CO2 emissions.

Because hydrogen has a lower volumetric energy density, the visual appearance of future aircraft will likely change to better accommodate hydrogen storage solutions that will be bulkier than existing jet fuel storage tanks.

Hydrogen has been safely used in the aerospace and automobile industries for decades. The aviation industry’s challenge is to adapt this decarbonized energy carrier to commercial aviation’s needs.

There are two primary uses for hydrogen:

Hydrogen propulsion:

Hydrogen can be combusted through modified gas-turbine engines or converted into electrical power that complements the gas turbine via fuel cells. The combination of both creates a highly efficient hybrid-electric propulsion chain powered entirely by hydrogen.

Synthetic fuels:

Hydrogen can be used to create e-fuels, which are generated exclusively through renewable energy.

Source: Airbus