Abating CO2 and non-CO2 emissions with hydrogen propulsion

C. Mourouzidis, G. Singh, X. Sun, J. Huete, D. Nalianda, T. Nikolaidis, V. Sethi, A. Rolt, E. Goodger, P. Pilidis
The Aeronautical Journal (2024)  •  pp. 1-18   FEATURED BOOK
This contribution focuses on the abatement with hydrogen of CO2 and non-CO2 emissions. It is agenda-setting in two respects. Firstly, it challenges the globally accepted hydrocarbon sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) pathway to sustainability and recommends that our industry accelerates along the hydrogen pathway to ‘green’ aviation. Secondly, it reports a philosophical and analytical investigation of appropriate accuracy on abatement strategies for nitrogen oxides and contrails of large hydrogen airliners. For the second contribution, a comparison is made of nitrogen oxide emissions and contrail avoidance options of two hydrogen airliners and a conventional airliner of similar passenger capacity. The hydrogen aircraft are representative of the first and second innovation waves where the main difference is the weight of the hydrogen tanks. Flights of 1000, 2000, 4000 and 8000 nautical miles are explored. Cranfield’s state of the art simulators for propulsion system integration and gas turbine performance (Orion and Turbomatch) were used for this. There are two primary contributions to knowledge. The first is a new set of questions to be asked of SAF and hydrogen decarbonising features. The second is the quantification of the benefits from hydrogen on non-CO2 emissions. For the second generation of long-range hydrogen-fuelled aircraft having gas turbine propulsion, lighter tanks (needing less thrust and lower gas temperatures) are anticipated to reduce NOx emissions by over 20%; in the case of contrails, the preliminary findings indicate that regardless of the fuel, contrails could largely be avoided with fuel-burn penalties of a few per cent. Mitigating action is only needed for a small fraction of flights. For conventional aircraft this penalty results in more CO2, while for hydrogen aircraft the additional emission is water vapour. The conclusion is that our research community should continue to consider hydrogen as the key ‘greening’ option for aviation, notwithstanding the very significant costs of transition.
Hydrogen propulsion; hydrogen aircraft; gas turbines; CO2 emissions; non-CO2 emissions; green aviation
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