Research project on LH2 refuelling at airports takes off in Europe

The EU project ALRIGH2T has been launched and now aims to develop refuelling technologies and processes for liquid hydrogen for use in aviation. The results are then to be demonstrated at two airports.

Image: Hamburg Aviation

The ALRIGH2T project is bringing together an international consortium of 21 partners from seven EU countries and Israel for a period of 48 months with funding totalling almost ten million euros. With their developments, the partners want to contribute to reducing the environmental impact of the aviation sector. According to the announcement, this sector is responsible for 2.5 to 3 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

The project is purely about the airport-side infrastructure for LH2-based aircraft engines – whether the liquid hydrogen is then burnt in an adapted aircraft engine or converted into electricity for an electric motor by a fuel cell is of secondary importance. In addition to direct refuelling, the research teams also want to investigate solutions such as swapping entire hydrogen tanks. Hydrogen becomes liquid at temperatures below -253 degrees Celsius, in which case it is referred to as liquid hydrogen or LH2 for short.

This is not the first LH2 project for airports in Europe. In Hamburg, the effects of LH2 drives on ground handling at airports have already been analysed – for example in aircraft maintenance.

“However, the development of innovative LH2-based solutions brings with it many new challenges in terms of hydrogen management and handling at airports, ensuring delivery times and maintaining a high level of safety and operational security. The use of refuelling systems from ALRIGH2T aims to overcome these significant challenges arising from the use of LH2 in aviation,” reads the press release from the Salzburg Aluminium Group, which is involved in the project.

In addition to the development of such systems, real-life tests are also planned. These are to be carried out at Milan-Malpensa International Airport and a “reference airport” in Paris. The exact airport in the French capital is not specified. However, it is said to involve “different types of airports”.

It is not just a question of technical feasibility, as the processes for refuelling with liquid hydrogen must also fit in with the well-organised and highly complex processes and safety concepts of an international airport if they are to prove themselves in practice. “Compromise solutions must be found to ensure the proper supply of hydrogen to aircraft, correct ground movements at the airport and the definition of new clauses and standardisation guidelines for the implementation and replication of these solutions at other airports,” writes the Salzburger Aluminium Group.

In addition to the Salzburger Aluminium Group, the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, LKR Leichtmetallkompetenzzentrum Ranshofen and Test-Fuchs are also involved from Austria. The German project partners are Linde and the Technical University of Munich, while Linde Kryotechnik from Switzerland is also involved. ENEA, the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development, is leading this joint project funded by the European Union as part of the Horizon Europe programme.

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