Hamburg and Christchurch are 18,500 kilometers apart - but both airports have a common climate goal bridging the vast distance: achieving net zero emissions by mid-2030. The means to accomplish this mission is green hydrogen to power ground vehicles and energize passenger and freight facilities.
CHC and HAM embarked on a net zero journey
It is widely unknown because of low-key public disclosure but HAM and CHC have long taken a leading pioneering role in replacing fossil fuels with sustainably generated energy. At Hamburg Airport, the decarbonization strategy first became visible in 2009. That year, the airport’s CO2 emissions stemming from ground vehicles, the heating or cooling of buildings and other sources totaled 40,000 tons. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 80 percent, reaching 8,700 metric tons in 2021, thanks to coordinated technical and operational measures, noted HAM CEO Michael Eggenschwiler on announcing the partnership with CHC. This puts HAM well ahead when it comes to fighting global warming, not only in the German landscape of larger airports but also in European comparison.
Sharing best practices
This is similarly true for Christchurch, which is a leader in decarbonizing processes in the Asia-Pacific region. In 2020, for example, CHC became the first airport in the world to achieve Airport Carbon Accreditation Level 4, and since then the management has taken additional steps to further reduce emissions on the airport’s journey to a net zero future.
Against this common background and based on long-term environmental visions, both airports decided to collaboratively embark on an eco-friendly green hydrogen use by exchanging information and sharing best practices.
Setting ambitious common goals
This was confirmed by Malcolm Johns, Chief Executive of Christchurch Airport, on the occasion of a recent meeting of environmental and operational experts of both airports: "Hamburg and Christchurch are both very ambitious to play their part in decarbonizing aviation," emphasized the executive. He went on to say: "We realize that to do that, we need partnerships like ours. For some time, we have had monthly online meetings with members of the Hamburg Airport team, sharing information and knowledge, and discussing and supporting each other's goals and achievements. Now it's time to set more common goals."
Michael Eggenschwiler, CEO of Hamburg Airport, replied: "Sustainable airport operation with renewable energies is a building block for climate protection in aviation - we will continue to pursue this path consistently. Keywords are wind power, solar energy, green hydrogen. Which solutions are suitable for airports and their respective locations must be examined and decided individually. We are very pleased to have gained an experienced partner in Christchurch International Airport. On an international level, we can pool our expertise to achieve CO2-free airport operations and embark on a future with sustainably powered aircraft.”
CHC and HAM emphasized in unison that the development of a hydrogen infrastructure on airport is of top priority, including the storage of larger quantities of cryogenic liquefied hydrogen. This shall be achieved by 2035. Once the scheme is in place and operational the fueling of smaller aircraft with H2 will also be possible, becoming a game changer in aviation.
Among other things, both airports see a high potential for achieving the intended H2 revolution in aviation in running company-owned energy parks. Christchurch Airport is focusing on photovoltaics in its 400-hectare Kōwhai Park energy park, which was officially announced last December and is well on its way to becoming New Zealand's largest solar energy park. In contrast, Hamburg Airport concentrates on wind energy stemming from offshore (North Sea) and onshore wind farms as its key source for producing green hydrogen.
Science is on board
The project is scientifically accompanied and supported by the Institute for Hydrogen Technology of the Helmholtz Center Hereon in Hamburg and the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Commenting on the partnership now announced between the two airports, Prof. Sally Brooker of the University of Dunedin said: "We look forward to continuing to support and facilitate the rapid development of both airports' zero-emissions ambitions, particularly with regard to green hydrogen."
It seems that in the coming years there will be more frequent meetings of experts from both airports either in Germany or New Zealand.
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