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23 Mar 2023

Green hydrogen aviation taking off

Low-emission aviation’s a step closer to reality with the launch of the New Zealand Hydrogen Aviation Consortium in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

The prospect of low-emission flights in Aotearoa New Zealand is taking off, with Christchurch at the centre of a new green hydrogen consortium.

Christchurch Airport is one of six sustainability-focused companies who’ve formed the New Zealand Hydrogen Aviation Consortium to design an ecosystem for green hydrogen aviation in New Zealand.

The other partners are Airbus, Air New Zealand, green energy company Fortescue Future Industries, Taranaki’s Hiringa Energy and liquid hydrogen solution pioneers Fabrum.

Green hydrogen is already proving its worth around the world as a sustainable fuel source for buses, trucks, trains and boats. There are global efforts underway to design a green hydrogen passenger plane for commercial use.

Christchurch Airport Chief Executive Justin Watson says hydrogen-powered planes make sense – they have the potential to drastically cut emissions and reduce aviation’s carbon footprint. 

"The New Zealand Hydrogen Aviation Consortium will see some of the world’s best experts collaborate on one of the most promising low emission fuels – green hydrogen. This is about designing all the infrastructure we’ll need for these new aircraft to take-off."

- Justin Watson, Chief Executive

Over the next six months, the consortium will design a green hydrogen ecosystem for aviation. They will examine the supply chain, assess the local aviation market’s projected hydrogen needs to 2050, and the infrastructure required for development of hydrogen aviation in New Zealand.  

Following the successful completion of phase one, the consortium will then look into whether test flights can be held in New Zealand. 

Air New Zealand has two ambitious goals – to fly its first commercial demonstrator flight from 2026 and begin replacing its Q300 Turboprop fleet from 2030 with low-emission aircraft.

The airline’s Chief Sustainability Officer Kiri Hannifin says the consortium’s work will be important to Air New Zealand achieving those ambitions.

“To fly hydrogen-powered aircraft in New Zealand we will need an aviation ecosystem that can support it. The Hydrogen Consortium brings together energy, aircraft, airline operator and airport expertise with the aim of bringing this to life. We can’t wait to see what we can achieve together,” says Ms Hannifin.

Christchurch Airport is the perfect testbed for ‘green’ air travel – with Kōwhai Park, a 400-hecatre renewable energy precinct sitting just beside the runways.