BHX airfield earmarked for hydrogen production facility

Peter Gallen of ZeroAvia, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and Simon Richards of Birmingham Airport

Initial concepts of a hydrogen production facility at Birmingham Airport have been revealed.

A partnership between the airport and zero-emission technology developer ZeroAvia was formed in February, with the aim of delivering hydrogen-powered air travel.

An area of land with access to the BHX airfield and the local road network has been earmarked as a suitable location for the facility. On-site solar power is also being considered as a source of renewable energy to produce hydrogen. 

Subject to funding, planning and regulatory permissions, the ambition would be to use the plant to support early flight  demonstrations, and also refuel road vehicles, potentially including local buses.

In advance of this, BHX has commenced talks with a major automotive company about trialing hydrogen buses and cars on its airfield.  

Analysis by ZeroAvia suggests a 3MW hydrogen production facility could produce 365 tonnes of hydrogen annually (1 tonne per day), potentially supporting 1,250 regional flights and 3,000 buses or trucks per annum, with the remaining 250 kg per day of hydrogen production capacity being used for industrial purposes. 

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said on visiting the site: “There is the seed of an idea here – with the ambition and creativity of the ZeroAvia team working with Birmingham Airport clear to see. 

“Our region is leading the way in tackling the climate emergency – not least with our #WM2041 net zero commitment – so it’s the right time for us to be at  the forefront of this effort to decarbonise flight journeys”.

Arnab Chatterjee, VP, Infrastructure, ZeroAvia, said: “Our ambition is bold but attainable. We have proven the concept of hydrogen-powered flights and are on a clear pathway to commercial adoption. Technologies are advancing fast as we progress with expanding to larger aircraft over longer distances.

“Before the end of this decade, we believe hydrogen as a fuel source for vehicles and aircraft will be an accepted norm.” 

ZeroAvia, which has £150m of backing from Amazon, Bill Gates, British Airways and Shell, hopes to be operating passenger services to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Belfast, Isle of Man and Dublin by the middle of this decade.

It’s currently working on bringing to market a zero-emission system capable of flying 20-seat aircraft 300 nautical miles by 2025.

In a move that would make zero-emission travel to Mediterranean holiday destinations a reality, ZeroAvia is also aiming to get an emissions-free 80-seat aircraft flying up to 1,000 nautical miles by 2027.

Simon Richards, Chief Finance and Sustainability Officer for BHX, said: “While we are still at a very early stage, it is important to communicate this vision so people can see what is coming and the benefits to the wider community. This is a game-changing prospect underpinned by a steely determination to decarbonise and protect the future of our planet for future generations.”