FFI and Universal Hydrogen join forces to decarbonise aviation

Nov 10, 2021

Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) and Los Angeles-based Universal Hydrogen Co. have joined forces to enable the aviation industry to decarbonise through zero-emissions green hydrogen.

Green hydrogen is an ideal aviation fuel because it is a zero-pollution, renewable resource that generates only water when it is burned. It is also the most weight-efficient energy carrier available, aside from nuclear fuels – with nearly four times more energy per unit of mass than traditional jet fuel.      

Today’s announcement follows FFI’s recognition by President Joe Biden at the climate change conference COP26 in Glasgow as one of several companies to join his prestigious “First Movers Coalition.”

Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed today, FFI and Universal Hydrogen have agreed to: 

  • Negotiate a global offtake arrangement whereby FFI will supply green hydrogen to Universal Hydrogen to power regional and other aviation sectors until 2035;
  • Conduct a scoping study to develop green hydrogen production and logistics hubs in Iceland, New Zealand and Southeast Queensland; and
  • Evaluate future green hydrogen demand in the aviation industry on a region-by-region basis to identify and promote green hydrogen adoption and uptake.

FFI Chairman, Dr Andrew Forrest AO said, “Universal Hydrogen has an ambitious plan to help fight climate change, with a goal of making hydrogen-powered commercial flights a reality – and FFI is committed to enabling that target.”

“Our collaboration lays the foundations for a zero-emissions aviation industry in the near-term future,” Dr Forrest said. “Currently, aviation accounts for 2.5 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions, and emissions have doubled since the 1980s.”

“Electrifying our planes will only go so far and will only be appropriate for smaller aircraft, due to current limitations around battery technologies. Green hydrogen, in contrast, is a practical solution we can use right now.”

FFI Chief Executive Officer, Julie Shuttleworth AM said, “The demand for green hydrogen in the aviation industry is expected to grow exponentially as new climate targets are set globally.

“This deal reinforces that green hydrogen has the potential to be a powerful fuel for a range of difficult-to-decarbonise industries, including aviation,” Ms Shuttleworth said.

Universal Hydrogen CEO, Paul Eremenko said, “This agreement will help ensure that we have adequate supply of green hydrogen globally to fuel not only regional aviation in the 2020s, but to support the entry into service of a hydrogen single aisle airplane in the 2030s.”     

“We see green hydrogen as the only credible path for aviation to reach Paris Agreement emissions targets,” Mr Eremenko said.

“Through the investment of companies like FFI, we expect green hydrogen to be at cost parity with jet fuel on an equivalent energy basis by the mid-2020s, and to be significantly cheaper in the years that follow,” Mr Eremenko said.

Universal Hydrogen, in which FFI is also an early investor, is building a flexible, scalable, and capital-light solution to hydrogen logistics for aviation through its modular capsule technology.

These capsules can be filled with gaseous and liquid hydrogen and are delivered from the point of production directly to the aircraft using existing freight networks and cargo handling equipment.

Universal Hydrogen is also developing a powertrain retrofit kit to enable regional passenger and cargo airplanes to be converted to fly on hydrogen. The first test flight of Universal Hydrogen’s technology is anticipated in 2022, with revenue services planned for 2025.

FFI will take the lead on green hydrogen production activities and supply to the identified markets or green H2 Hubs, and Universal Hydrogen will take the lead on delivery logistics to airports and on-airport fuel services.

Both FFI and Universal Hydrogen will work together to identify and develop green hydrogen customer demand in the aviation industry.

Media contact

Harriet Glenn: +61 431 230 456
Lilly Hannock: +61 402 189 188
Email: ffimediarelations@fmgl.com.au