CAAS and Airbus to look into Changi Airport hydrogen hub as part of push for sustainable aviation

Under a new CAAS-Airbus memorandum of understanding, both organisations will collaborate in the field of sustainable aviation.
Under a new CAAS-Airbus memorandum of understanding, both organisations will collaborate in the field of sustainable aviation.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The initial steps to look into whether hydrogen power infrastructure can be deployed at scale at Changi Airport will begin in the coming months.

This comes as part of Singapore's effort to develop sustainable aviation, amid growing awareness about the environmental impact of air travel.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said on Thursday (Nov 18) that it will work with aerospace firm Airbus to launch a technical feasibility study of an airport hydrogen hub and the infrastructure requirements to support future hydrogen-powered aircraft operations.

The two-year study, which will start in early 2022, will cover areas such as the production, storage and distribution of hydrogen, aircraft ground services, logistical equipment and refuelling systems.

It will examine how these requirements can be implemented in airport development.

While hydrogen power is yet to be used in commercial planes, industry players have touted it as a solution that will lead to zero carbon dioxide emissions. But there are also other issues, such as hydrogen being more expensive to produce compared with natural gas or aviation fuel.

CAAS said the results of the study will be considered in policymaking, infrastructure planning and industry development.

The study is the first project that will be launched as part of a new agreement signed by CAAS and Airbus on Thursday.

Under the CAAS-Airbus memorandum of understanding, both organisations will collaborate in the field of sustainable aviation.

CAAS director-general Han Kok Juan, who noted that decarbonisation is a key priority for international aviation, said: "Recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic will not be a return to business-as-usual but an opportunity to rebuild an aviation sector that is more sustainable."

He said the organisations involved have to develop concrete pathways to achieve the goal of making air travel greener, while still keeping it accessible.

In order to do this, organisations across the aviation sector will have to work together to reinvent the entire ecosystem. The public and private sectors will also have to work closely together, Mr Han added.

Airbus' chief technical officer Sabine Klauke said the decarbonisation of the aviation sector requires a combination of approaches, including tapping hydrogen energy.

The firm is aiming to deliver the world's first zero-emission commercial aircraft by 2035.

It is currently studying three concepts for this proposed plane. All three involve the use of hydrogen to power the plane.

The CAAS-Airbus agreement comes just days after CAAS announced that it will partner Singapore Airlines and investment company Temasek to pilot the use of sustainable aviation fuel in Singapore.

The trial to use lower-carbon fuels will run for a year, and producers and suppliers of sustainable aviation fuel have been invited to present their plans on delivering cleaner fuels.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, commercial aviation contributed about 900 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or about 2 per cent of global carbon emissions, yearly.

Passenger numbers are projected to double by 2050, meaning a parallel doubling of carbon dioxide emissions if no action is taken.