French Aviation Players Put Out Call For Interest In Hydrogen

Groupe ADP wants to make Charles de Gaulle Airport one of its "hydrogen hubs."
Credit: Groupe ADP / Sylvain Cambon

LYON, France—Following Airbus’ drive to have a hydrogen-powered aircraft in service by 2035, several French players in commercial air transport have launched a “call for expressions of interest” centered on hydrogen use at airports.

Air France-KLM, Paris airports operator Groupe ADP and the Paris region have partnered with Airbus to explore how hydrogen—seen as a key component of a decarbonization strategy—may transform the French capital’s airports. Groupe ADP is ready to alter its infrastructure and intends to make the most of hydrogen. The company wants to morph its airports—Charles de Gaulle (CDG), Le Bourget (LBG) and Orly (ORY)—into “hydrogen hubs.”

The call for expressions of interest covers three areas: infrastructure, diversified use and overall efficiency. The idea is to identify advances in research and technology and then test those solutions that will have been deemed economically viable.

The first theme is about hydrogen storage, transport and distribution at an airport. Storage systems, small liquefaction units and aircraft refueling should all be studied, considering both gaseous and liquid hydrogen.

The second theme deals with the “diversification of hydrogen use cases” at airports. Hydrogen might be harnessed for ground vehicles and equipment, as well as energy supply for buildings and aircraft during ground operations. The Paris region has two hydrogen buses in commercial service, around Versailles.

The third theme, dubbed the “circular economy around hydrogen,” is targeted at maximizing the use of hydrogen and its by-products. The recovery of hydrogen that tends to dissipate during refueling will be considered. The decarbonized production of hydrogen may create by-products, the recovery of which will also be investigated.

Applications will be received from Feb. 11 to March 19. The projects selected will be announced late in April.

“We are ready, with our partners, to federate a unique ecosystem to make possible the progressive integration of hydrogen at Paris airports. We must prepare today to welcome the hydrogen aircraft in 2035 by transforming our airports into real hydrogen hubs,” Groupe ADP deputy CEO Edward Arkwright said.

Some airports already have plans to gain experience with hydrogen before the first hydrogen-fueled aircraft lands. Under the Hyport project, Toulouse airport is aiming to have its passenger buses and other ground vehicles using gaseous hydrogen produced by renewable power. Ground was broken in June 2020 for the first local hydrogen gas station.

Vinci Airports, which manages 45 airports around the world, has also started studying new infrastructure and the accompanying logistics issues. The company has joined Airbus, Dassault Aviation and hydrogen supplier Air Liquide to “think about the design of infrastructures, operational processes and airport staff qualifications.”

They are bidding in the French government’s call for projects to promote the design, production and use of hydrogen-based systems at a European scale.

To grow familiar with the use of hydrogen, Lyon Saint-Exupery (LYS) airport will lead Vinci’s effort. A dedicated gas station will start distributing hydrogen in its gaseous form in 2021, targeting light ground vehicles.

A regulation for the use of liquid hydrogen at airport is yet to be created. Groupe ADP and Vinci are part of a working group to develop this that also includes Airbus, Air Liquide, fuel supplier Titan Aviation and French civil aviation authority DGAC.

Thierry Dubois

Thierry Dubois has specialized in aerospace journalism since 1997. An engineer in fluid dynamics from Toulouse-based Enseeiht, he covers the French commercial aviation, defense and space industries. His expertise extends to all things technology in Europe. Thierry is also the editor-in-chief of Aviation Week’s ShowNews.