Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development

MEDIA - Press office ENEA
airports with hydrogen containers

Energy: ENEA and Milan airport operator team up for liquid hydrogen solutions

Liquid hydrogen as the next frontier to decarbonise aviation and promote sustainable mobility in airports is the focus of the the project ALRIGH2T[1], coordinated by ENEA, which comprises 21 national and international companies and research bodies, including SEA which manages the Milan airport.

ALRIGH2T, funded by the European Commission with approximately 10 million euro[2], will work to develop innovative solutions for components, technologies and systems for the use of liquid hydrogen in aviation, strengthening European leadership both in research and experimentation and in the industrial sector while consolidating the role of airports as hubs for the creation and diffusion of an hydrogen economy.

The project provides for tests in two airports, Milan Malpensa and Paris, to study, validate and demonstrate two approaches for refueling hydrogen in aircraft and ground handling vehicles. In Milan, SEA will test "direct" refueling of liquid hydrogen, defining the operational protocols to ensure safe and speedy operations; in Paris, refueling will be demonstrated by replacing/exchanging the liquid hydrogen tank, filled elsewhere. The challenge of the project is testing two completely different approaches to compare their performances: reliability, operability, boil-off, safety, costs.

In addition to coordinating the project, ENEA will also contribute to the development and evaluation activities of the technological solutions to be implemented from a technical, economic and environmental point of view. “A significant result in a highly competitive European context”, said Viviana Cigolotti, head of the ENEA Energy Storage, Batteries and Technologies for the Production and Use of Hydrogen Laboratory of the Energy Technologies and Renewable Sources Department. “A further recognition of the value of our researchers, the quality of the research activities conducted and the presence of an efficient and effective organizational structure crucial to draw up complex proposals”.

Aviation – continued Cigolotti – accounts for approximately 3% of greenhouse gas emissions. Innovative, low-carbon fueling technologies and processes can reduce their environmental impact to facilitate the ongoing energy transition. ALRIGH2T will develop and test, in a real environment, hydrogen-powered aviation technologies; in parallel, transversal activities will be conducted to determine the optimal operating conditions, in compliance with environmental, safety and regulatory requirements, with the final aim of bringing these solutions to the market".

"Although airports account for just 3% of CO2 emissions from aviation, in recent years they have taken on a leading role for the entire industry as concerns decarbonisation – said Alessandro Fidato, Chief Operating Officer of SEA Aeroporti di Milano. For this reason, we are involved in numerous projects aimed at achieving zero emissions in 2030 in our airports, and we also want to play an active role in supporting those who build aircraft and operate air connections.

Hence our initiative to incentivize the use of sustainable SAF fuels and the strategic choice to contribute to the roadmap that will lead to the use of hydrogen, initially for road connections with airports and in the future to fly passengers. Our dialogue with all stakeholders is part of this framework to concentrate efforts towards a common objective, as is our involvement in this new project which will lead to a very important and concrete experimentation of technologies for the hydrogen refueling of an aircraft at the Milan Malpensa airport".

The initiative was presented at the end of January in a kick off meeting at the ENEA Liason office in Brussels, attended by the 21 partners.


[1] Airport-level demonstration of ground refuelling of liquid hydrogen for aviation

[2] Program Horizon Europe – Work Programme 2023-2024 “Climate, Energy and Mobility”