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Fortescue, Airbus sign MOU for renewable hydrogen-fueled aircraft by 2035


Fortescue targets 15 mil mt renewable hydrogen by 2030

Airbus sees propulsion, synthetic fuels as use cases

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  • Ruchira Singh
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Australia's Fortescue Future Industries and Airbus signed a memorandum of understanding March 8 to collaborate on renewable hydrogen as aviation fuel and an aircraft that could fly on it by 2035, FFI said.

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The announcement "reflects FFI's and Airbus' shared ambition to leverage their respective expertise to support the entry-into-service of a green hydrogen-based aircraft by 2035," the company said. It will allow both companies to collaborate closely to implement green hydrogen as a fuel within the aviation industry.

FFI will provide the cost outlook and technology for the supply chain and will build infrastructure deployment scenarios for the supply of renewable hydrogen, while Airbus will provide characteristics on fleet energy usage, scenarios for hydrogen demand in aviation, refueling specifications and aviation regulatory framework, according to the MOU.

"Airbus has identified green hydrogen as the most promising option for decarbonisation to meet our environmental challenges," Glenn Llewellyn, Vice President of Zero Emissions Aircraft, Airbus said. "The future of air travel is green."

FFI, a subsidiary of mining company Fortescue Metals Group, is a developer, financier and operator investing in zero-emission resources to produce renewable energy. It started construction of a manufacturing center for electrolyzers in Gladstone, Queensland, the company said Feb. 28.

FFI said its goal is to become the world's leading integrated and fully renewable energy and green products company, targeting a production of 15 million mt/year of renewable hydrogen by 2030.

Airbus sees two primary uses for hydrogen: hydrogen propulsion, whereby hydrogen can be combusted through modified gas-turbine engines or converted into electrical power that complements the gas turbine via fuel cells; and synthetic fuels, whereby hydrogen can be used to create e-fuels that are generated exclusively through renewable energy, its website says.

The airplane maker has a ZEROe concept aircraft that would enable it to explore a variety of configurations and hydrogen technologies that will shape the development of future zero-emission aircraft.

The global aviation industry produced more than 2.5% of global CO2 emissions, with emissions having doubled since the 1980s, according to Andrew Forrest, Founder and Chairman of FFI.

Other sustainable aviation fuels are also being developed.

France's TotalEnergies said March 3 that it has "successfully started production" of sustainable aviation fuel at its Gonfreville refinery in Normandy to be produced with waste and residue.

Chevron has set up a new energies unit with a $10 billion budget through to 2028 to grow its renewable and low-carbon fuels business, targeting a capacity of 100,000 b/d for renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel, Mark Nelson, Executive Vice President -- Downstream and Chemicals, Chevron said in a conference Dec. 1.