Rolls-Royce and Easyjet test jet engine running on hydrogen

28 Nov 2022 by Tom Otley
a converted Rolls-Royce AE 2100-A regional jet engine

Rolls-Royce and EasyJet have conducted the world’s first run of a modern aero engine powered by hydrogen.

The test took place at an outdoor test facility at MoD Boscombe Down, UK using a converted Rolls-Royce AE 2100-A regional jet engine.

The ground test was conducted using green hydrogen supplied by EMEC (European Marine Energy Centre), generated using renewable energy at their hydrogen production and tidal test facility on Eday in the Orkney Islands, UK.

Following analysis of the early concept ground test, the partnership plans a series of further rig tests leading up to a full-scale ground test of a Rolls-Royce Pearl 15 jet engine.

Hydrogen is seen as a medium to long-term goal of the aviation sector to decarbonise, but there are significant technological hurdles to overcome, not least the storage of hydrogen on board aircraft. As Airbus states, “Hydrogen may provide more energy by mass than kerosene fuel, but it delivers less energy by volume. At normal atmospheric pressure and ambient temperature, you would need approximately 3,000 litres of gaseous hydrogen to achieve the same amount of energy as one litre of kerosene fuel.”


Rolls Royce says,  “While hydrogen can also be used directly as a fuel in a gas turbine, it is likely to start in the shorter haul segments, where the aircraft range is shorter. Given volume limitations attached to the storage of hydrogen and the limited power density of fuel cells, for long range, Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) fuelling gas turbines will remain the most likely solution moving forward.  Hydrogen will offer options in shorter range segments and has the potential to progress onto larger segments, as the technology is proven and hydrogen fuel becomes more readily available.”

This availability of hydrogen is dependent on renewable sources if the carbon effects of production are to be avoided. Hydrogen is a colourless gas (and liquid), but the ‘colours’ refer to the way it is produced. If hydrogen is created from natural gas, the colour is referred to as ‘grey hydrogen’. If the CO2 is captured from this process, then it is ‘blue hydrogen’ (‘black hydrogen’ and ‘brown hydrogen’ are produced from coal). The aim is for ‘green hydrogen’ to be used, from renewable sources.

Grazia Vittadini, Chief Technology Officer, Rolls-Royce, said: “The success of this hydrogen test is an exciting milestone. We only announced our partnership with Easyjet in July and we are already off to an incredible start with this landmark achievement. We are pushing the boundaries to discover the zero carbon possibilities of hydrogen, which could help reshape the future of flight.”

Johan Lundgren, CEO of Easyjet, said: “This is a real success for our partnership team. We are committed to continuing to support this ground-breaking research because hydrogen offers great possibilities for a range of aircraft, including Easyjet-sized aircraft. That will be a huge step forward in meeting the challenge of net zero by 2050.”

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