Decarbonizing the sky: Calif. agency’s breakthrough expertise is coming to the Sunport

Common Hydrogen staff load a module containing the corporate’s hydrogen gasoline capsules onto Common’s ATR 72-600 turboprop for testing on the firm’s engineering and design middle on the Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in France. (Courtesy of Common Hydrogen)

New Mexico has landed a whale within the rising nationwide and international hydrogen financial system, probably changing the Albuquerque Worldwide Sunport into floor zero within the start of hydrogen-based aviation.

Common Hydrogen — a California-based startup that’s backed by aviation and hydrogen-related trade giants — introduced early this 12 months that it could make investments $254 million in a brand new manufacturing facility on the Sunport to open in 2025. The manufacturing facility will produce state-of-the-art expertise that the corporate has already developed to quickly convert present turboprop plane that handle regional passenger service into hydrogen-propelled planes, together with progressive, modular hydrogen capsules for speedy fuel-up at airports the place the brand new hydrogen planes function.

The corporate unveiled its plans in a information convention in March with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who introduced $10 million in Native Financial Improvement Act funding for the undertaking, plus $2 million extra in potential LEDA cash from the Metropolis of Albuquerque, which might act as fiscal agent for the financing. However since then, Common has largely remained silent on its plans and progress.

Till now, that’s.

On Oct. 28, firm co-founder and basic counsel Jon Gordon broke the silence in an hour-long presentation for native and nationwide reporters, providing an in-depth take a look at Common’s breakthrough expertise, international enterprise plans and go-to-market technique, which might properly propel the corporate over time into a world stalwart within the hydrogen trade.

Within the long-term, it might present its drop-in retrofit expertise and its compact gasoline capsules for a lot of different transportation sectors aside from aviation — together with long-haul trucking, rail traces and maritime delivery — and for different trade functions, akin to mining gear.

However for now, it’s centered squarely on aviation, with New Mexico smack within the middle, Gordon stated.

“New Mexico is in the course of it,” Gordon instructed reporters. “We’ll make the (hydrogen) capsules in New Mexico to assist serve hydrogen infrastructure globally. It will likely be constructed proper right here.”

Broad trade backing

Most startups that promise disruptive expertise able to shaking up established industries take a few years of analysis and growth to deliver their merchandise to market. And plenty of, if not most, both fail outright or fall far in need of their objectives.

Adequate monetary backing is usually missing, and market penetration is extraordinarily difficult, given the necessity to persuade clients to modify to new applied sciences. That’s very true in long-time conventional industries like aviation.

However the stars appear aligned for Common Hydrogen, which already has a stable buyer base for its expertise within the U.S., Canada and Europe, the place aviation firms have signed both letters of intent or agency buy orders to purchase Common’s plane-retrofit expertise and gasoline cylinders to instantly convert fleets of planes to hydrogen, starting in 2025, Gordon stated.

In June, for instance, Massachusetts-based Join Airways — a division of Waltzing Matilda Aviation — signed a “agency order” for Common to transform 75 of its ATR 72-600 regional plane to hydrogen propulsion. The ATR 72-600 is at present the most well-liked in-production regional turboprop in the marketplace, and Join signed extra buy rights for an additional 25 planes, with preliminary deliveries beginning in 2025.

Canada’s Avmax Plane Leasing Co. additionally positioned a agency order in July to retrofit 20 of its leased and owned plane, together with each ATR 72-600s and Sprint 8-300 turboprops. That offers Common an preliminary foot into Canada’s sturdy turboprop aviation trade, which operates the most important regional turboprop market on this planet.

And, amongst others, Common has extra letters of intent with Ravn Alaska, Icelandair and Spain’s Air Nostrum to undertake its hydrogen propulsion system.

“Now we have greater than 200 planes below letter of intent with 15 or 16 operators the world over,” Gordon stated.

Equally essential, Common has direct monetary backing and partnerships with a few of the largest industrial gamers in aviation and different industries. That features American Airways, Airbus Ventures, JetBlue Expertise Ventures, GE, Mitsubishi HC Capital, Toyota Ventures, and hydrogen- and fuel-cell producer Plug Energy. Some well-known enterprise capital corporations have additionally joined, akin to Playground World and World Founders Capital.

Taken collectively the corporate’s company and enterprise backers have already pumped a mixed $100 million into Common.

“Now we have an awesome, numerous investor group that displays virtually your complete provide chain,” Gordon stated. “… They’re excited concerning the thought and tempo with which we’re constructing every little thing out, with industrial service to start in 2025.”

That backing is important going ahead, as a result of the corporate might want to increase a minimum of a pair hundred million {dollars} in extra financing to get into operation, Gordon stated.

In the meantime, Common’s management staff is stacked with aviation trade veterans, together with former prime executives from international industrial plane producer Airbus and aerospace engineering agency United Applied sciences Corp. Common co-founder and CEO Paul Eremenko beforehand served as chief expertise officer at each Airbus and UTC. Common’s personal chief expertise officer, Mark Cousin, can be the previous chief engineer at Airbus. And Gordon was beforehand UTC’s deputy basic counsel for expertise.

Revolutionary, ‘inexperienced’ expertise

Common’s hydrogen conversion system is especially compelling for the aviation trade, which is a significant contributor to international carbon emissions, however one of many tougher sectors to decarbonize because the world strives to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century.

Common is considered one of many firms working to exchange jet gasoline with hydrogen and different alternate options, akin to biofuel. But it surely’s one of many few which have managed to quickly construct a drop-in conversion package that will likely be prepared for service in simply three years, a minimum of to retrofit turboprop plane, which by and enormous present passenger service for regional airways serving quick routes within the U.S. and different nations.

Why New Mexico’s aviation scene lends itself to hydrogen-powered flight

Common Hydrogen will quickly convert turboprop planes that service short-line routes to hydrogen propulsion…

These are the single-aisle, narrow-body planes that match as much as 70 passengers in six-seat rows, with three passengers on all sides of the aisle.

Common’s gasoline cell electrical powertrains are made with off-the-shelf elements, designed to swap out present turboprop engines that burn gasoline to function, releasing substantial carbon and different emissions within the course of.

Common’s powertrain is comprised of electrical propulsion models made by Washington-based magniX, and hydrogen gasoline cells from Plug Energy, which give the present wanted to run the electrical motors that flip the propellers, with no carbon emissions. Water is the one byproduct launched.

That’s as a result of the hydrogen gasoline cells get rid of combustion. They function via a chemical response that creates electrical energy and releases solely water when hydrogen is blended with air.

And notably essential, Common will solely embrace “inexperienced” hydrogen within the gasoline cells, which means hydrogen that’s made with renewable vitality akin to photo voltaic or wind to energy up electrolysis expertise, which pulls hydrogen molecules out of water with no emissions within the course of.

That’s in distinction to hydrogen derived from pure gasoline via a course of that extracts the hydrogen molecules from methane, emitting important carbon throughout manufacturing. In contrast to electrolysis, pure gas-based hydrogen is riddled with controversy, producing important opposition from environmental organizations that criticize its reliance on fossil fuels and the carbon emitted within the course of.

However by relying solely on “inexperienced,” or electrolysis-based manufacturing, Common’s hydrogen-propulsion system fully eliminates carbon and different emissions to permit for net-zero conversion of turboprops, Gordon stated.

“It’s all from inexperienced sources with inexperienced electrons utilizing electrolysis,” Gordon stated. “It’s a superbly inexperienced option to energy automobiles.”

Common is establishing partnerships now with inexperienced hydrogen-producing firms to supply the gasoline for its turboprop conversion programs, Gordon added.

Modular hydrogen gasoline tanks

However whereas Common’s powertrains themselves supply a novel option to quickly decarbonize turboprops and probably different automobiles sooner or later, it’s the mixture of these conversion kits with Common’s new modular hydrogen gasoline capsules that represent the corporate’s true progressive breakthrough.

The refillable, light-weight capsules will likely be transported from inexperienced hydrogen manufacturing websites to airports and loaded instantly into plane utilizing present freight networks and cargo dealing with gear. That eliminates the necessity for pricey and prolonged airport infrastructure upgrades, making practically any airport hydrogen-ready from the get-go.

“That’s our actual innovation — attacking the issue from an end-to-end method for aviation, which nobody has accomplished earlier than,” Gordon stated. “The excuse has all the time been lack of infrastructure and the necessity to construct pipelines or large storage amenities at airports with specialised amenities.”

The capsules, or gasoline tanks, will likely be loaded into the airplane’s rear fuselage and positioned in a compartment that can change the final two rows of passenger seats. Aside from that, no main new designs are wanted for putting in Common’s hydrogen propulsion programs on turboprops.

The gasoline packs will include a mixed 270 kilograms of hydrogen — sufficient for a turboprop to journey 1,000 kilometers, or about 620 miles — earlier than changing them with one other set of capsules on the subsequent airport.

Aside from offering regional aviation with a drop-in, end-to-end resolution, the modular hydrogen capsules supply a sustainable, long-term enterprise mannequin for Common, which might constantly provide the gasoline tanks to service planes transformed to hydrogen propulsion throughout the globe, and probably different trade sectors that convert to hydrogen sooner or later.

“There are about 2,000 to three,000 of those (regional turboprop) planes working globally,” Gordon stated. “We hope to seize as much as half of that market, or greater than 1,000 planes.”

Common will manufacture each the hydrogen conversion powertrains and the gasoline tanks at its new facility in New Mexico.

“We see New Mexico as sort of the way forward for the corporate,” Gordon stated. “When we’ve planes within the air, we’ll constantly make these modules with new shapes for various functions. We might conceivably double the scale of our workforce right here sooner or later.”

Manufacturing homebase in NM

For now, the corporate initiatives as much as 500 everlasting staff when its Sunport facility opens in 2025, with some 1,200 building jobs earlier than then.

The corporate at present operates three analysis and growth amenities, together with its headquarters in southern California, a brand new engineering and design middle it opened in July on the Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in France, and a brand new Hydrogen Aviation Take a look at and Service Heart it established final 12 months on the Grant County Worldwide Airport in Moses Lake, Washington.

It opened the Washington check facility in partnership with its electrical propulsion unit provider magniX, gasoline cell provider Plug Energy, and the Moses Lake-based aerospace agency AeroTEC, which develops, assessments and certifies new plane merchandise. Common and its companions will conduct the corporate’s first check flight with a hydrogen-converted Sprint 8-300 turboprop in Washington in December.

New Mexico, nevertheless, will anchor the corporate’s manufacturing base going ahead, Gordon stated.

“In all places else, it’s all analysis and growth,” he stated. “… We’ll put collectively the powertrains in New Mexico, and we might even do airplane conversions right here. And we’ll construct all of the modular hydrogen capsules on the Sunport.”

The corporate is below strain to interrupt floor, given its contracts to begin delivering its hydrogen propulsion programs in 2025. It’s choosing architects now, with a undertaking begin date focused for spring 2023.

Common’s govt staff met with Mayor Tim Keller on Nov. 9.

“The mayor goes to be presenting us to town council later this month for LEDA approval,” Gordon instructed the Journal this week. “As soon as it’s accepted, we will rent architects and actually get occurring the location.”

Time is of the essence, Gordon added.

“Our plane growth is continuing at full tempo, and we have to choose up the velocity on constructing out that manufacturing facility. It’s an enormous endeavor,” he stated.

The corporate has leased about 100 acres northeast of the Sunport passenger terminal in an space that used to occupy a north-south runway that was decommissioned in 2012.

“It’s an exquisite website — very seen — that individuals will see as they land in Albuquerque,” Gordon stated. “… We’ll have tons of of staff there, so it is going to be a little bit of a village with hopefully eating places and residences within the space to help our operations.”

Constructing a hydrogen trade in NM

New Mexico lobbied closely to deliver Common to the state, the place many different firms are actually additionally pursuing new hydrogen initiatives and expertise growth, each in city and rural areas. That features:

• Efforts by Tallgrass Power to transform the outdated coal-fired Escalante Producing Station close to Grants right into a natural-gas based mostly hydrogen manufacturing and energy plant.

• Plans by Libertad Energy LLC to construct a inexperienced, electrolysis-based hydrogen manufacturing facility close to Farmington to provide gasoline for long-haul hydrogen vehicles alongside a brand new Southwest Clear Freight Hall that can stretch from the Port of Los Angeles to central Texas.

• Improvement of compact cellular hydrogen turbines by Albuquerque-based BayoTech Inc., which expects to start deploying them in hydrogen hubs throughout the nation beginning early subsequent 12 months.

• Superior efforts by Albuquerque-based startup Pajarito Powder to develop various catalyst supplies for gasoline cells and electrolyzers utilized in inexperienced hydrogen manufacturing that may considerably decrease the prices for each applied sciences.

The New Mexico Partnership and Scott Fosgard Communications collectively organized a week-long media tour in late October about native hydrogen growth, which included Gordon’s presentation on Common.

“We need to deliver consideration to the work that New Mexico has already accomplished right here within the hydrogen house to point out that the state has a robust, rising ecosystem to help extra alternatives,” NM Partnership president and CEO Melinda Allen instructed the Journal. “Because the hydrogen trade grows throughout North America, we need to set up New Mexico as a central hub within the rising hydrogen financial system.”

That’s one thing Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is aggressively pursuing via a partnership with Colorado, Utah and Wyoming to draw federal funding to construct out a regional hydrogen hub.

These efforts helped entice Common to Albuquerque, stated Joe Britton, former chief of employees for U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and now president of Pioneer Public Affairs — a local weather and clear vitality agency working to recruit new companies to the state.

“Throughout website choice, New Mexico made clear how invested the state is in creating vitality resilience within the cleanest doable manner, offering tailwinds for (Common) to ascertain operations right here with open, welcoming arms and sturdy help,” Britton stated. “We’re thrilled to make it a actuality and (they’re) about to make actual materials progress.”

Common’s undertaking marks the start of Hydrogen-based aviation, with New Mexico enjoying a central position, Gordon stated.

“It’s a once-in-an-era transition from fossil fuels to hydrogen in aviation,” he stated. “… It’s an actual factor, and it’s occurring a lot quicker than individuals suppose.”

Hydrogen-based aviation takes off

Firm will construct manufacturing facility on the Sunport, make use of 500…

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