Interview of Mr. Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking

Interview of Mr. Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking

August 28th, 2020

Mr. Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking - FCH JU (short CV here) introduces his views regarding the challenges and the scopes of the FCH JU as well as his viewpoint on the role of Academia in the frame of the FCH JU.

Which are the main objectives of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking and which are the main challenges to be faced in order to meet these objectives.

The goal of FCH JU is to develop by 2020 to the point of market readiness a portfolio of clean, efficient and affordable solutions. These solutions must fully demonstrate the potential of hydrogen as an energy carrier and fuel cells as energy convertors, as part of an energy system that integrates sustainable solutions and energy supplies with low carbon stationary and transport technologies. The FCH JU aims to achieve this goal by funding projects that demonstrate on a large scale the market readiness of FCH technology. Our programme has four pillars; Transport (e.g. vehicles and refuelling infrastructure); Energy (e.g. hydrogen production and distribution, energy storage and stationary power generation, power-to-x); Overarching activities (e.g. building up of local value chains, integrated use of FCH technologies) and Cross-cutting (e.g. harmonisation of testing protocols, training, safety). The main challenges we still have are to further decrease the cost of this technology through scaling-up but also through important R&I activities such as usage of other materials, adapting the technology for applications like aviation, liquid hydrogen storage and production, hydrogen distribution etc. As you can see, there are many challenges still ahead of us.

EASN is an Association dealing mainly with the Aviation and Space sectors. Which are the synergies of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking with other European Partnerships and in particular the Clean Aviation Partnership.

Hydrogen is an energy carrier that can be used in multiple applications and end-uses. Logically there are many synergies with other partnerships like, among others, the Clean Aviation Partnership. So far, the FCH JU has funded about five projects in the field of aviation that were mainly related to non-propulsive applications, while Clean Sky 2 JU (CSJU) was focussing on propulsive applications for hydrogen. Earlier this year, the CSJU and FCH JU joint study on the potential of hydrogen-powered aviation revealed that there is a huge potential for hydrogen in aviation. The result pushed us to rethink both partnerships cooperation and to make a research agenda that is coordinated. The draft plans today are that Clean Hydrogen JU will develop the components (tanks, fuel cell stacks, etc.) while Clean Aviation will do the integration of these components in the plane. Therefore, the synergies are many and it will be key for both partnerships to have a very close relationship to align the calls for funding and look into coordinated or complementary calls by the both JUs.

Who are the main actors in the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking and what is the prospective role of Academia and more specifically the EASN Association therein.

The FCH JU has, next to the European Commission, two private members: Hydrogen Europe Industry (HE): 170 members and Hydrogen Europe Research (HER): 80 members. Looking to their membership, we see that several members of Clean Sky are also member in one of the two hydrogen associations and obviously, they will play a key role in the development and alignment of the topics to be funded. In addition, HE has members who are world leaders in hydrogen production and liquefaction technology, which will secure all the hydrogen that we need to fuel the airplanes. The role of academia like EASN and HER is hugely important as we are still at the very beginning of this development and many things are still unknown. A lot of research is required in the development of the technology, in the field of regulation, codes and standards for hydrogen in aviation especially for safety and in more accurate assessments of climate impact of non-CO2 emissions. Technically, for aviation we need to develop fuel cells with high power density and low cost, turbines with higher efficiencies and low NOx, huge and light liquid hydrogen tanks and the integration of all them. Without academia, we will definitely not succeed.

By concluding this discussion is there any messages you would like to pass?

Europe is a world leader in hydrogen and aviation technology. Combining both industries must make it possible to build a clean hydrogen-propelled regional aircraft demonstrator by 2028. Europe's strength is working together; both partnerships can bring all the top-engineers and scientists together to realize what no one has done before, building commercial airplanes that does not harm the environment. This will give future generations the freedom to keep travelling and exploring the world without a CO2 footprint. Let us realize this dream together, I am convinced that we can do it together but only with strong dedication and passion. I am ready, are you?