Progress continues towards zero-emission passenger flights as initial concepts were revealed today for the creation of a hydrogen production facility at Birmingham Airport (BHX).
To realise this dream, early-stage concepts are being developed jointly by ZeroAvia, the hydrogen-electric aircraft developer, and BHX for on-site hydrogen production aircraft refueling facility, with the potential for multi-modal applications.
An area of land with access to the BHX airfield and the local road network has been earmarked as a suitable location for the facility. On-site solar power is being considered as a source of renewable energy to produce hydrogen.
Subject to funding, planning and regulatory permissions being secured, the ambition would be to use the pioneering plant to support early flight demonstrations, and also refuel road vehicles, potentially including local buses. In advance of this, BHX has commenced talks with a major automotive company about trialing hydrogen buses and cars on its airfield.
Analysis by ZeroAvia suggests a 3MW hydrogen production facility could produce 365 tonnes of hydrogen annually (1 tonne per day), potentially supporting 1,250 regional flights and 3,000 buses or trucks per annum, with the remaining 250 kg per day of hydrogen production capacity being used for industrial purposes.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said on visiting the site: “There is the seed of an idea here – with the ambition and creativity of the ZeroAvia team working with Birmingham Airport clear to see.
“Our region is leading the way in tackling the climate emergency – not least with our #WM2041 net zero commitment – so it’s the right time for us to be at the forefront of this effort to decarbonise flight journeys.
“I look forward to this initiative bearing fruit in the months and years ahead. If this dream becomes a reality, we will all benefit.”
Arnab Chatterjee, VP, Infrastructure, ZeroAvia, said: “Our ambition is bold but attainable. We have proven the concept of hydrogen-powered flights and are on a clear pathway to commercial adoption. Technologies are advancing fast as we progress with expanding to larger aircraft over longer distances. Before the end of this decade, we believe hydrogen as a fuel source for vehicles and aircraft will be an accepted norm.”
Simon Richards, Chief Finance and Sustainability Officer for BHX, said: “While we are still at a very early stage, it is important to communicate this vision so people can see what is coming and the benefits to the wider community. This is a game-changing prospect underpinned by a steely determination to decarbonise and protect the future of our planet for future generations.”
In January of 2023, ZeroAvia carried out successful test flights at its base in Kemble, Gloucestershire, using a 20-seater aircraft powered by a hydrogen-electric engine. ZeroAvia plans to certify its ZA600 system for this size of aircraft by 2025, while looking to certify engines for up to 80 seat aircraft by 2027. Hydrogen fuel cells generate electricity which then powers electric motors to turn the aircraft’s propellers. The only emission is water vapour.
ZeroAvia is currently working on bringing to market a zero-emission system capable of flying 20-seat aircraft 300 nautical miles by 2025.
This opens up the possibility of green air travel from Birmingham to destinations such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Belfast, Isle of Man and Dublin by the middle of this decade.
In a move that would make zero-emission travel to Mediterranean holiday destinations a reality, ZeroAvia is aiming to get an emissions-free 80-seat aircraft flying up to 1,000 nautical miles by 2027.
For BHX, the partnership with ZeroAvia sits alongside its own journey to become a net-zero-carbon airport by 2033, as outlined in its ‘carbon roadmap’* published in 2022.
The UK’s largest airline said today will start flying to Paris and Lyon from Birmingham (BHX) this winter.
From 30 October 2023, easyJet flights to Paris Charles de Gaulle will operate daily and flights to Lyon will depart three times a week – on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Adding these two French cities brings easyJet’s domestic and international routes from BHX to a total of 13.
Today’s news comes after easyJet’s announced last week it will create a base at BHX for three of its 186-seater A320neo aircraft from March 2024 – a move which will bring 100 direct jobs and a further 1,100 indirect jobs to the West Midlands.
Ali Gayward, easyJet’s UK Country Manager, said: “We’re delighted to announce our new routes and package holidays from Birmingham to Paris and Lyon, which will enable our customers in the Midlands to explore even more fantastic destinations across Europe, reconnect with loved ones and do business.
“The launch of these new services ahead of our base opening in Birmingham next spring demonstrates our confidence in the resilient strength of demand for travel in the UK, with customers choosing us for our trusted brand, unrivalled network and great value fares and we can’t wait to welcome more customers on board.”
Tom Screen, aviation director for Birmingham Airport, said: “Fresh off the back of the superb news about easyJet’s plan to base three of its aircraft at BHX from March 2024, they hit us with more.
“Lyon and Paris and are wonderful additions to easyJet’s BHX flight roster. Paris is renowned for its iconic landmarks, museums and cuisine, while Lyon is famed for its gastronomic scene, historic old town and picturesque riverfront.
“Bolstering capacity to the French capital and starting services to currently unserved Lyon have been key priorities for BHX since the first iteration of Flybe when out of business back in 2020.”
easyJet is the largest airline in the UK. Since launching nearly 30 years ago, has flown over 800 million customers to and from the UK, having grown to serve 21 UK airports, offering over 480 routes to over 130 airports from the UK across Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.
Brussels Airport Company plans to replace its central heating installation by early 2027 with a Net Zero Carbon installation, which will heat the terminal buildings without emitting carbon dioxide. Currently, a gas-fired boiler plant is used to heat the airport buildings. The boiler plant was optimised several times over the years. Replacing it by an innovative alternative that does not use gas is an essential step in the journey towards net zero carbon emissions as it will reduce Brussels Airport Company’s total carbon emissions by around 70% (based on figures of 2021).
Brussels Airport Company has been carbon neutral for its own emissions as airport operator since 2018. For all the buildings and infrastructure managed by Brussels Airport Company, its own activities as a company and the fleet of operational vehicles, use is already being made of green energy. Any remaining emissions are offset. The ambition of Brussels Airport Company is to achieve net zero carbon emissions for its own activities by no later than 2050, and to do everything in its power to achieve that ambition faster.
Today, the airport buildings in the area around the terminal are heated centrally by a gas-fired boiler plant. This heating plant provides energy to, among other things, the passenger terminal and piers and to various buildings in the vicinity of the terminal. This central heating plant has already been upgraded several times to make it more environmentally friendly. For example, two large cogeneration systems have been installed, which are far more efficient and also produce electricity alongside heat. Despite of these upgrades, the boiler plant continues to emit carbon dioxide.
That is why Brussels Airport Company decided to opt for a heating installation that uses no gas at all but is developed as a Net Zero Carbon installation, without CO2 emissions.
“This new heating installation is a major step in our ambition as airport operator to achieve net zero carbon emissions. This gas-free installation will allow us to cut down our carbon emissions by about 70%. An investment that is also a first in Belgium, a such an installation on this scale (a total power of 21megawatts) has never before been built in our country.”, says Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport Company.
A tendering process is being conducted for the implementation of this project, inviting candidates to submit a bid for the development of the new heating installation based on the latest technologies. The aim is to begin construction in 2025 and to have the heating installation operational by early 2027. This considerable investment once again shows that Brussels Airport Company is committed to reducing its carbon footprint through concrete initiatives that will yield concrete results within three years. Other initiatives to reduce the remaining 30% of carbon emissions are being examined.