Over the next few decades air travel is predicted to grow, with international agencies, manufacturers and governments predicting a considerable increase in aviation use. However, based on current fuel type, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) project emissions from aviation are estimated to be seven to ten times higher in 2050 than in 1990. These conflicting needs are problematic and have led to the EU Flightpath 2050 targeting dramatic emissions reductions for the sector (75% CO2, 90% NOX by 2050).
One proposed solution, decreasing carbon emissions without stunting the increase in air travel, is hydrogen propulsion; a technology with clear environmental benefits. However, enabling the safe application of this fuel to aviation systems and industrial infrastructure would be a significant challenge. High-profile catastrophic incidents involving hydrogen, and the flammable and cryogenic nature of liquid hydrogen (LH2) have led to its reputation as a more dangerous substance than existing or alternative fuels. But, where they are used (in industry, transport, energy), with sufficient protocols, hydrogen can have a similar level of safety to other fuels. A knowledge of hazards, risks and the management of these becomes key to the integration of any new technology.
Using assessments, and a gap analysis approach, this paper examines the civil aviation industry requirements, from a safety perspective, for the introduction of LH2 fuel use. Specific proposed technology assessments are used to analyze incident likelihood, consequence impact, and ease of remediation for hazards in LH2 systems, and a gap analysis approach is utilized to identify if existing data is sufficient for reliable technology safety assessment. Outstanding industry needs are exposed by both examining challenges that have been identified in transport and industrial areas, and by identifying the gaps in current knowledge that are preventing credible assessment, reliable comparison to other fuels and the development of engineering systems.
This paper demonstrates that while hydrogen can be a safe and environmentally friendly fuel option, a significant amount of work is required for the implementation of LH2 technology from a mass market perspective.