First Ammonia-Fueled Jet To Fly By 2023, Says Aussie Firm
The entire airline industry needs to wean itself off jet fuel over the next few decades – but it's still buying enormously expensive jet aircraft that are expected to keep bringing home the bacon for more than 20 years, Loz Blain reported for New Atlas.
Photo Insert: At Aviation H2, the team believes it can convert existing jets to run carbon-free with relatively minor changes.
Australian company Aviation H2 hopes to clean up commercial flights by converting existing aircraft to burn green ammonia instead of standard Jet-A jet fuel. To do so, it's planning to have a nine-seat passenger jet in the air and flying on ammonia by the middle of next year.
Ammonia, as we've discussed at length, is a promising energy carrier and future fuel with interesting potential for decarbonizing sectors like shipping and rail. The second-most produced chemical in the world today, it's primarily used as a fertilizer, but as the clean energy revolution kicks in, it'll start to be used effectively as an easier way to move and store green hydrogen.
Renewable energy, as we all know, isn't produced where and when you want it. Often, clean energy potential sits an inconvenient distance from where the demand is. If that clean energy is used to electrolyze water and produce hydrogen, it can be stored and transported.
But that hydrogen can also be mixed with atmospheric nitrogen to produce ammonia, which travels much better than either gaseous or cryogenic liquid H2. "Hydrogen gas is very light for the energy it holds, and liquid hydrogen is even lighter," Aviation H2 Director Christof Mayer tells us over a video chat.
"But the tanks are big and heavy. We certainly don't discount liquid hydrogen or any other form of hydrogen as an option. We're not shutting those down. We're just going with ammonia for now. It's the simplest conversion, and that intrinsically will make it the most reliable, and that in itself makes it intrinsically the safest."
There are a few different ways to get the energy out of ammonia as electricity, but Aviation H2 has zeroed in on its potential as a combustion fuel. With a few modifications, a regular jet engine can be converted to run on ammonia, eliminating all its carbon dioxide emissions in a way that doesn't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
The operation will be much faster and cheaper than a hydrogen fuel cell conversion, which would require you to throw out your perfectly good turbofan engines and replace them with electric motors, as well as gutting your fuel storage systems and putting in something radically different.