Innovation Culture

Leveraging ArianeGroup’s hydrogen experience to support new markets 12-21-2023 |  5 minutes


At a time of energy transition, ArianeGroup has key know-how thanks to 40 years of expertise in Ariane propulsion systems running on liquid hydrogen.


The fight against global warming is indeed a global issue, which means eventually moving away from the use of fossil fuels. This entails the development of alternative energy sources that are cleaner and emit less greenhouse gases (GHGs).

Hydrogen is an excellent candidate in this respect. This element is the most abundant in the universe and a natural source of energy. It is to be found in the cores of stars and in the atmosphere of the gas giant planets. On Earth, it very rarely exists on its own and is part of the composition of water and of living matter.

Many countries have recently defined national and regional hydrogen strategies, with clearly stated long-term objectives, demonstrating a widespread surge of interest in hydrogen.

In its liquid state, hydrogen has considerable energy density and can be stored, which makes it ideal for heavy-duty mobility, as it is capable of providing thrust over long distances.

As a result of more than 40 years of know-how in developing launchers and propulsion systems, ArianeGroup has expertise in the use of liquid and gaseous hydrogen which is recognized worldwide by the industry as a whole.

Its experience of hydrogen-related operations, technologies and infrastructures on several sites in Germany and France makes ArianeGroup a key player in the energy transition process, contributing to replacing fossils fuels with low-carbon liquid hydrogen for heavy-duty mobility applications such as aeronautics and maritime, rail and road transport.

Some examples of new opportunities for liquid hydrogen

ArianeGroup already supports the aeronautical industry through a number of initiatives and projects, notably with its parent companies Airbus and Safran, which are leading players in the field with an ambitious roadmap for hydrogen-fuelled aircraft.

Another area of industry interested in the long-haul potential of liquid hydrogen is maritime transport, where recent developments have clearly identified this new fuel as an alternative to fossil energy sources. Given that hydrogen could eventually be produced in countries with low-cost, low-carbon energy sources, then transported to Europe or elsewhere by sea, one could imagine that enormous liquid hydrogen carrier ships will be needed to supply the sector. ArianeGroup’s experience of lightweight tank structures and of controlling sloshing (wave effects inside large tanks) will be extremely valuable when developing these ships. As many countries could be interested in importing this energy source, this type of ship will become vital for transporting it.

A third area for the development of liquid hydrogen is road transport, which is constantly looking for technological solutions able to contribute to preserving the current range of trucks.

Estimates indicate that the demand for liquid hydrogen in Europe should quadruple every five years for these various applications.


So what is ArianeGroup actually doing in this field?

ArianeGroup is adapting space-related technologies to the new demands of air or land mobility, in terms of performance, endurance and competitiveness.

ArianeGroup is targeting three key segments in each of these areas of the heavy-duty mobility market: ground infrastructures, on-board equipment, and services, such as testing activities or design and definition studies.

ArianeGroup’s know-how includes characterization of materials, design of equipment, subsystems and distribution architectures, production, testing and qualification of the highest-tech parts, and implementation of systems as a whole, without ever losing sight of the safety of property and people, which remains its number one concern.

ArianeGroup has all the engineering and implementation expertise, along with the industrial and testing resources, needed to deploy the use of liquid hydrogen. Its range of skills cover the product’s entire lifecycle – storage, distribution circuits, refuelling, combustion – along with the associated equipment and transverse services, such as materials characterization or safety management.

ArianeGroup has the largest cryogenic test centre in Europe (liquid hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, methane) at its Vernon site in Normandy, France.

ArianeGroup for example works with the support of the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC), Airbus and Safran in defining the architecture of a hydrogen system capable of powering an aircraft’s on-board equipment and engines.

The Hyperion project, supported by France’s Investments for the Future Program (PIA), has already successfully tested a hydrogen conditioning concept in mid-2023, capable of supplying an aeronautical gas turbine, in partnership with Airbus and Safran

© AIRBUS S.A.S. 2022

With regard to the associated infrastructure, ArianeGroup won a contract to develop the liquid hydrogen ground refuelling equipment as part of the Airbus zero emissions aircraft demonstrator program.

In the maritime sector, ArianeGroup is a participant in the Elemanta H2 consortium for a multi-services barge designed to provide electricity and hydrogen to large ships, reducing their pollutant emissions by more than 80% during port calls.

This is just the start of the adventure to decarbonize the heavy mobility sector, and ArianeGroup is contributing by applying the excellence it has achieved in space to the needs of the energy transition process.