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LCI sustainable airport development seminar

The ECCT's Low Carbon Initiative (LCI) co-hosted a seminar with the Taoyuan International Airport Corporation (TIAC, 桃園國際機場公司) at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TTIA) on the topic "Green Gateways: Airport Sustainable Development". The seminar was arranged to address the pressing need for sustainability in aviation, with a particular focus on the role of hydrogen in decarbonizing the industry and increasing the sustainability and operational efficiency within airport facilities. The event commenced with opening remarks by Alan Fan (Hsiao-Lun), President and CEO of TIAC, and ECCT Chairman Giuseppe Izzo. This was followed by presentations by Anne Lo, Deputy Director of TIAC's Corporate Development Department; Shawn Jang, General Manager of RCI Engineering; Olivier Letessier, President of Air Liquide Far Eastern and Kung Po-Chen, General Manager of Signify Taiwan.

In her presentation, Anne Lo began with an overview and update of developments at TTIA. She noted that construction is underway on the airport's third terminal while a third runway is now in the design stages. Land for construction of the runway is expected to be secured by 2026 and the runway is scheduled to be built by 2030. Of the 35,000 people working at the airport, TIAC employs 661 people, approximately 16,000 people are employed in the airport's aviation services, about 9,000 in publicly owned units and 4,000 in the airport's commercial operations. The airport serves 92 airlines, flying to 117 global destinations with 273 scheduled passenger and cargo routes.

In line with the central government's target, TTIA is required to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and has begun compiling annual sustainability reports every year in accordance with Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) standards. Currently Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions account for less than 2% of TTIA's total emissions. Scope 1 emissions are mainly from operating the airport's incinerator while Scope 2 emissions mainly come from its electricity consumption. Scope 3 emissions account for more than 98% of the airport's emissions. This is mainly from the consumption of jet fuel by airlines operating at the airport and the energy and electricity consumption of the airport's tenants.

In terms of reducing the emissions of its own operations, TTIA has completed the installation of energy-efficient ice water pumps, changed all lights to LEDs and installed solar panels on the roofs of existing terminal buildings. It is also in the process of replacing its cooling tower equipment, replacing elevators and equipping escalators with sensors that will leave them idle when not in use. In addition, the roof of the new terminal 3 under construction will be covered with solar panels. To help airline partners to reduce their emissions, the airport is constructing Fixed Electrical Ground Power units to replace diesel-powered Ground Power Units and Auxiliary Power Units and replacing airport service vehicles with electric versions (and building charging stations for them). The next step is to deepen cooperation with airlines to switch to sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), continue to adopt the use of renewable energy and circular economy concepts (including developing sustainable lounges and gates and reusing bottom ash from the incinerator).    

Shawn Jang spoke about making airports more sustainable by implementing sustainable building practices. He noted that true sustainability is achieved when a business focuses on doing the ordinary things well, such as measuring, monitoring and managing water, waste, energy, health, carbon and transparency and keeping things simple, manageable and outcome focussed. He outlined the pathway to net zero from determining the assets for decarbonisation to energy data analysis, setting targets, estimating the costs to monitoring and recalibration. He stressed that the facilitation process should involve the majority of the staff, in order to achieve an informed and refined strategy.

Designing for net zero can be applied both to new buildings and when refurbishing existing buildings. The process needs to be thorough and consider every aspect and step of the process since a single mistake could harm the results. Aspiring for net zero across energies requires careful balancing and encouraging the use of passive building designs and methods of water treatment where possible. In addition, nature provides some of the best solutions for adapting to harsh climates. Systems which replicate these processes (biomimicry) can contribute to reaching net zero.

Passive designs can reduce the need for artificial cooling and heating. For example, Ethylene Tetra Fluoro Etilene (ETFE, a lightweight, durable transparent plastic material for outdoor applications) provides good insulation while green roofs reduce runoff by absorbing water and keeping buildings cooler naturally. In addition, horizontal light shelves (light-reflecting overhangs) that allow daylight to penetrate deep into a building, helps to reduce glare and the need for artificial lighting, while wind catchers (chimney-like structures) can harness the wind and draw in fresh air from the roof of a building.

Buildings still need energy active systems but localised air conditioning designs can reduce energy usage by cooling just the lower part of indoor spaces, leaving the air above at ambient temperatures. Service on demand escalators (which only operate when passengers are detected) can save energy. Meanwhile, regenerative lifts can convert energy generated when in motion into electricity. In addition to solar power, energy tiles, which generate energy from footsteps, can be placed in areas of high foot traffic.

In his presentation, Olivier Letessier spoke about the role of hydrogen in aviation. The company has 60 years of experience in hydrogen production and plans to invest a further €8 billion in hydrogen by 2035. Although hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, as an element it is almost always found as part of another compound, such as water (H2O) or methane (CH4), and it must be separated into pure hydrogen (H2) for practical use. This has traditionally been done through a process which is carbon intensive. However, the development of electrolysers has made it possible to use renewable energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Moreover, once hydrogen has been extracted, to be useful as a fuel it first needs to be compressed. Even more power can be derived when hydrogen is liquified (which increases the energy density 4.5 times compared to compressed hydrogen). Air Liquide is a world leader in producing liquid hydrogen (LH2) based on experience dating back to the 1960s when it began producing liquid hydrogen for rocket launches. In 2022, the company was making 30 tonnes of hydrogen per day at its plant in Nevada, the United States and this year it is producing 90 tonnes a day in South Korea.     

Hydrogen is already seen as a viable option for mobility, especially large vehicles like buses and trucks. The aviation industry is also under pressure to decarbonise despite the difficulties, such as needing high power and a long range, and taking into account weight limitations. There are several scenarios for the use LH2/biofuel/efuels in aircraft but in all cases, hydrogen is required. Power-to-liquid synthetic fuel is one option, whereby renewable energy powers electrolysers to produce green hydrogen, CO₂ is converted into carbon feedstock and the carbon feedstocks are synthesised with green hydrogen to generate liquid hydrocarbons. They are then converted to produce a synthetic equivalent to kerosene. A second option is using hydrogen fuels cells, whereby stored hydrogen is converted into energy to power electric motors. A third option is hydrogen combustion, which is similar to conventional internal combustion in that it generates thrust by burning hydrogen in modified gas-turbine engines.

Liquid hydrogen can serve airport ecosystems. Once liquefied, it can be transferred to storage containers by pipeline (if the production facilities are onsite) or trucks. Once available at the airport, liquefied hydrogen can be used for many purposes, including ground logistics (such as baggage tractors, forklifts, pods, super tugs and shuttle buses). For example, at Seoul-Incheon International Airport, Air Liquide provides refilling stations for airport vehicle fleets with filling times of under five minutes. Besides the possibility of using hydrogen for propulsion in the future, hydrogen can be used to power all the flight and communication systems, lighting, heating and all on-board services, including catering and refrigeration.

Airbus, Groupe ADP and Air Liquide conducted a one-year study on the potential of hydrogen in airports. The study identified a clear list of possible supply chains that include LH2 trailers, pipelines, and on-and off-site production and liquefaction. In addition, while the integration of the infrastructure was found to be feasible in most airports, integration challenges were identified in a few airports, such as large airports in urban environments with little spare space available. There were also questions about the costs. A first high-level assessment showed a very high degree of cost variability, depending on LH2 demand volumes during the ramp-up phase and electricity costs. In a possible scenario for 600 LH2 flights, up to 1.7GW of power would be needed for electrolysis and liquification, up to 30 hectares of land would be needed for the facilities and it would cost an estimated €3 billion (€1 billion for the electrolysers, and the rest for H2 infrastructure capex at the airport, liquefaction, LH2 storage, LH2 pipes and ground refuelers).

In his presentation, Kung Po-Chen introduced his company's energy-saving lighting products, systems and services. The company is the world's leading provider of intelligent interconnected lighting, LED lighting and traditional lighting for all applications including buildings, outdoor areas and farming. In recent years the company has made a number of acquisitions of leading global brands.

Improving the designs of lighting systems can save energy and costs. The company's lighting as a service (laas) has been deployed in airports such as Amsterdam's Schiphol airport. Under the scheme, the airport pays only a fee for lighting. There are no upfront capital or other running costs. This makes it in Signify's interests to cut costs by reducing the use of energy and by making its products more durable and reusable/recyclable. When equipment reaches the end of its useful life, it is reused or recycled. According to Kung, the company has extended the lifecycle of its products by 75% and cut energy usage by 50%. In addition, the company can provide multi-dimensional and customised solutions, such as specific colours, sizes and shapes of light fixtures. The business model also provides an incentive to innovate and make further improvements to its products.

The company is also making 3D printed lights and it has produced 3D printed lights to help Colombia Eldo Lado International Airport reduce its carbon footprint. In the first phase of the project, 8,941 sets of Signify's 3D printed lights were completed. Signify helped the airport convert more than 14,000 lighting points to LED and reduced power consumption by 66%.