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Plug Power inks green hydrogen deals with Airbus, Phillips 66

13 October 2021 Amena Saiyid

New York-based Plug Power announced separate renewable power-sourced, green hydrogen deals with French aircraft manufacturer Airbus and Houston-based Phillips 66 aimed at helping to decarbonize the aviation and industrial sectors, respectively.

In partnership with Airbus, Plug Power will study how green hydrogen can be used to decarbonize air travel and related operations.

Alongside Phillips 66, the company will "explore ways to deploy Plug Power's technology within Phillips 66's operations, leveraging Plug Power's experience as a full value chain provider within the hydrogen economy."

Hydrogen, especially the "green" variety produced from renewable power sources, is increasingly being viewed as an alternative to carbon-intensive fossil fuels because in liquid form it can be transported in existing pipelines, in solid form it can be used in fuel cells for automobiles or soon enough in aircraft, and it can be used to produce steel and cement, two traditionally carbon-intensive industrial processes.

As countries emerge from the pandemic and attempt to kickstart their economies, companies like Plug Power offer industries a low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels. Plug Power provides a range of solutions, from developing fuel cells to producing green hydrogen and blue hydrogen, which is produced from oil and natural gas facilities equipped with carbon capture.

Less than a month ago, Plug Power announced plans to build a 30 metric ton (mt) a day electrolyzer plant in California that will be powered by a new 300-MW solar farm. In previous announcements, the company said it intends to build plants in New York, Tennessee, and Georgia. Combined, the facilities will have a total production capacity of 500 mt/day by 2025.

Industrial uses will be the biggest driver of growth, as hydrogen offers an option for reducing the carbon footprint of energy-intensive processes such as making steel and cement.

The International Energy Agency expects green hydrogen—splitting water molecules in an electrolyzer powered by renewable energy—to eradicate 830 million metric tons of CO2 emissions produced annually when this gas is manufactured using fossil fuels.

Plug Power wants to expand its green hydrogen footprint beyond the commercial sector into the industrial sector through its partnership with Phillips 66, which has 13 wholly owned and joint venture oil refineries in the US and Europe. The company also owns extensive hydrogen-related infrastructure and uses hydrogen in the manufacturing of transportation fuels.

Under this partnership, Plug Power and Phillips 66 intend to integrate and scale up low-carbon hydrogen use in the industrial sector; advance hydrogen fueling opportunities in the mobile sector; and further develop hydrogen-related infrastructure.

"Phillips 66 stands to help us meet our goal of producing 1,000 tons per day of green hydrogen while deploying cost-efficient solutions within the renewable fuels sector," David Bow, Plug Power's executive vice president of electrolyzers solutions, said in a 13 October statement.

Plug Power's partnership underscores its commitment to accelerating hydrogen infrastructure. Earlier this month, the company said it was joining a host of energy, engineering, and construction firms plus institutional investors to set up a €1.5-billion ($1.7 billion) fund known as Hy24, which will finance large-scale clean hydrogen projects and related infrastructure.

Airports

As part of the study with Airbus, the two companies said "Plug Power will build deployment scenarios for green hydrogen infrastructure at airports, while Airbus will provide insight on hydrogen aircraft characteristics."

Airbus already has identified green hydrogen as "one of the most promising solutions" as part of its goal to deliver zero-emission aircraft by 2035.

Both Airbus and Plug Power already are independently testing aircraft engines using green hydrogen. Airbus unveiled three concepts for its ZEROe aircraft that would be powered by a combination of hydrogen-powered fuel cells and combustion engines that burn hydrogen gas.

An airport right now requires ground transportation to shuttle passengers to and from aircraft, aircraft tugs, and cargo trucks, and fuel is needed to cool and heat the buildings. Traditionally, these vehicles and buildings have consumed fossil fuels, but Airbus said the use of renewable electricity-derived hydrogen can reduce the "15-20 megatons of CO2" that are emitted each year from airports.

Airbus launched its "Hydrogen Hub at Airports" concept in 2020 to jumpstart research into infrastructure requirements for future hydrogen aircraft, as well as low-carbon airport operations.

The companies will select a US airport to serve as the first "Hydrogen Hub" pilot airport in North America, serving as a case study for hydrogen infrastructure scale-up at other airports.

Meanwhile, Plug Power is working with California-based Universal Hydrogen to develop a 2-MW powertrain for retrofitting regional turboprop-powered aircraft. Plug Power is using green hydrogen produced at its own facilities to power patented fuel cells, while Universal Hydrogen is providing the electric motors for the powertrain and testing the entire assembly. Pending certification and approvals from various agencies, the two companies plan to demonstrate the viability of green hydrogen-fueled regional aircraft as early as 2023 and begin commercial operations by 2025.

Posted 13 October 2021 by Amena Saiyid, Senior Climate & Energy Research Analyst, IHS Markit

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