Bristol Airport Sees Airside Hydrogen Refuelling Trial

GSE equipement is fuelled with hydrogen at Bristol Airport
Photo Credit: Bristol Airport

easyJet, in collaboration with industry partners, has successfully conducted the first-ever airside hydrogen refuelling trial at a major UK airport – Bristol Airport.

This ground breaking project demonstrates the feasibility of using hydrogen to power ground support equipment (GSE). This specifically involves baggage tractors, in a busy airport environment.

Project Acorn

Hydrogen has been used to refuel and power critical parts of easyJet’s ground operation at Bristol Airport. The testing demonstrates that hydrogen can be safely and reliably used in place of other fuels in an airport situation.

Developed over a year, Project Acorn involved leading organizations from aviation, engineering, logistics, and academia.

The project aims to establish industry best practices, guide airports and regulators on infrastructure changes. It aims to support the creation of a regulatory framework for hydrogen use in aviation.

This framework is crucial as hydrogen is a new technology in this sector. The data gathered will inform research on infrastructure, regulations, and policies needed to support the development of zero-emission aircraft.

This aligns with the goals of organizations like Hydrogen in Aviation (HIA). It contributes to the work of bodies like Hydrogen South West (HSW) and the Hydrogen Innovation Initiative (HII). The two bodies both co-funded the project.

Industry Leaders See Hydrogen as the Future

David Morgan, Chief Operating Officer at easyJet, emphasizes the importance of hydrogen for short-haul aviation.

He highlights the need for safety data and insights to inform regulations. This is necessary in order to keep pace with innovation and support the industry’s decarbonization targets.

Tim Johnson, Director for Strategy, Policy and Communications at the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) offered comment. He acknowledges Project Acorn as a cornerstone for decarbonization initiatives.

Johnson advised that the CAA will now use the trial data to create a White Paper. This will then develop safety guidance for hydrogen use in aviation.

Anthony Browne, Aviation Minister, commends Project Acorn for pushing boundaries and utilizing engineering to make decarbonization a reality.

He emphasizes the importance of such projects in achieving the government’s goal of zero-emission airport operations by 2040.

A Seed for Rapid Hydrogen Uptake

The UK aviation industry faces a tight timeframe to develop the infrastructure, safety standards, and procedures needed for hydrogen-powered operations.

Project Acorn serves as a first step by obtaining airside refuelling clearance from the CAA.

The safety assessments and emergency planning with local authorities will provide valuable lessons for future developments and serve as a blueprint for other airports considering a transition to hydrogen.

Accelerating Hydrogen Adoption in Aviation

Project Acorn tackles the regulatory and safety challenges associated with hydrogen use in aviation. The operational trial paves the way for future hydrogen-powered aircraft.

The project’s ultimate goal is to accelerate hydrogen adoption and support the wider decarbonization of the aviation sector.

The Economic Benefits of Hydrogen Aviation

Experts believe hydrogen-powered aviation will not only achieve net-zero emissions but also bring significant economic benefits.

The Department for Transport estimates that rapid investment could create 60,000 new jobs in the UK. Additionally, Hydrogen UK projects that hydrogen could contribute £18bn to the UK’s economy by 2050.

Green hydrogen, produced from renewable sources, offers a particularly attractive alternative fuel. It eliminates carbon emissions while preserving an industry that employs a significant workforce and contributes substantially to the UK’s GDP.

Investing in hydrogen will not only address climate concerns but also maintain the social benefits of air travel, allowing people to connect with business, loved ones, and new destinations.

By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
4 Min Read
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