On Monday 28 November, Rolls-Royce and easyJet announced that they have conducted the world’s first test of a modern aircraft engine powered by hydrogen. This work is part of both companies’ commitment to the UN “Race to Zero” campaign.
HYDROGENi Centre Director Nils Røkke, who has previously worked for Rolls-Royce, welcomed this development from his previous employer, and provided his own thoughts:
“The challenge for hydrogen-fuelled aircraft engines is being able to burn hydrogen with low nitrogen oxide emissions, and the difficulty of premixing hydrogen with air to lower the combustion temperature to avoid thermal nitrogen oxide formation. The cooling flows and the fuel injection system also need to be redesigned to be very different than they the kerosene-fired engines operating today. I presume there has been some breakthroughs here, as this is testing aircraft engines and at higher than idle conditions and without diluents or steam. These are also issues that SINTEF is pursuing in our research, building upon our long running programme BIGH2, and the Norwegian CCS Research Centre (NCCS) and LowEmission.
With regards to the sustainability issues of various colours of hydrogen, we need to keep within the EU sustainable taxonomy. In a paper released last year, we clearly demonstrated the effect that upstream leaks in the methane chain could have on the total footprint. Luckily the methane leaks along the Norwegian natural gas chain are very low, and so low that it has hardly any effect on the total footprint. For aviation, I foresee the volumes needed being in a range where distributed electrolysers would be the most suitable.”
You can read the full press release on the Rolls-Royce website.