Air New Zealand and Airbus join forces to launch green hydrogen aviation

A group of businesses are joining together to launch green hydrogen aviation.
A group of businesses are joining together to launch green hydrogen aviation. Photo credit: Getty Images


A group of businesses has put forward a plan that would see liquid hydrogen-fuelled aircraft flying New Zealand's domestic routes.

The New Zealand Hydrogen Aviation Consortium said the shift to hydrogen power would remove up to 900,000 tonnes of carbon emissions every year by 2050.

The consortium members were Airbus, Air New Zealand, Christchurch Airport, Fortescue, Hiringa Energy and Fabrum.

They have released a report, Launching Green Hydrogen Powered Aviation in Aotearoa New Zealand, examining the hydrogen supply chain, measuring how much would be needed and developing a blueprint to transition to a green hydrogen aviation system.

It also had recommendations for regulations and incentives needed to make the shift.

The consortium wanted cross-party support and for the government to get behind the scheme.

Airbus was developing the world's first hydrogen aircraft for commercial use. Spokesperson Karine Guenan said New Zealand was uniquely positioned to lead the testing and deployment of low-carbon aircraft.

"The country's large potential renewable electricity and water resources are key advantages, while the size of aircraft used here and the length of routes flown match the capabilities of hydrogen-powered aircraft.

"This report lays out the ecosystem required to make that happen. It is a first step and Airbus is committed to leveraging our expertise to work with government, iwi, industries and other stakeholders to bring it to life."

Christchurch-based company Fabrum was already working on hydrogen aviation projects overseas.

Chairperson and co-founder Christopher Boyle said green hydrogen was an important part of the future of clean flight, but there would have to be a big boost in renewable energy to make this realistic.

"Based on the findings of the consortium, there are up to 100,000 tonnes of green hydrogen needed each year," Boyle told Morning Report.

"It requires a reasonable amount of electricity - about 6.2 TW a year - which is 16 percent of New Zealand's current electricity supply."

Green hydrogen is manufactured through electrolysis - the application of electricity to water. This separates the hydrogen and oxygen components, and the hydrogen is then captured and liquified for use as liquid hydrogen in fuel cells or directly burnt in turbine motors.

The hydrogen can also be used to make eSAF, a green hydrogen fuel which is similar to, and a direct replacement of, current A1 jet fuels.

New Zealand's geography made it "very suitable" for changing the national fleet to hydrogen-fuelled aircraft, Boyle said.

"The reality is that we have to displace carbon-based fuels with alternatives - and hydrogen is definitely one of those.

"We're blessed in this country that we've already got a large amount of green electricity production and the capability to further bolster this generation through wind - onshore and offshore - and solar.

"Decisions need to be made at a government level, but that's one of the key findings of the report.

"It gives clear direction on what's required at a national level to find provide the electricity for this fuel."

The report said that for hydrogen aviation to take off, New Zealand would need to generate more renewable energy to support green hydrogen production and develop infrastructure to move the energy where it was needed. It said policies and regulations would be needed to support the work.