Wednesday, February 28

Iberia launches the first long-haul flight powered by waste biofuel

An Iberia Airbus A330-200 model plane lands at the airport. / Eph

The plane with capacity for 288 passengers, which will cover the Madrid-Washington route, will allow the reduction of emissions into the atmosphere of some 42 tons of CO2

Edurne Martinez

The first long-haul aircraft that uses a biofuel produced in Spain from waste not suitable for consumption takes off. It is an Iberia Airbus A330-200, with capacity for 288 passengers, which thanks to this fuel will cover the Madrid-Washington route that the airline inaugurated this Wednesday. It will not be the only one of the day, since two other flights (Madrid-Dallas and Madrid-San Francisco) will also be promoted in this way, which will allow a reduction in emissions into the atmosphere of 125 tons of CO2 between the three.

Specifically, the biofuel used is biojet, produced at the Repsol refinery, Petronor, located in Bilbao. These aircraft, which are already the most efficient of the airline, have a maximum take-off capacity of 242 tons and consume 15% less fuel than the fleet they replace, as they are more respectful of the environment.

On these flights, Iberia and Repsol anticipate the measures of the European Union which, through the Fit For 55 package, will establish the obligation of 2% sustainable aviation fuel by 2025, something that the three operated this Wednesday already incorporate bound for the United States.

In the future, companies will carry out new flights with a growing percentage of biofuel mix that can reach up to 50%. This product will be produced in the first advanced biofuels plant in Spain, which is scheduled to come into operation in 2023 in Cartagena. Also in 2024, Repsol and Iberia have planned to operate with synthetic SAF (e-fuel), produced at the Petronor plant in Bilbao. In addition, both companies are working on a project for the use of HVO (hydrotreated vegetable oil) in vehicles for airport services.

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Repsol’s CEO, Josu Jon Imaz, pointed out during the presentation of these flights that “a sector such as the aeronautical sector needs solutions such as biofuels for a decarbonization process such as the one we are in.” Imaz considers that this project consolidates its position to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, being the first company in the sector to have adopted this “ambitious goal”. In his opinion, the transition must be made with the “capabilities” that exist in our country to “avoid future dependencies”, making a commitment to Spanish industry.

For his part, the president of Iberia, Javier Sánchez-Prieto, commented that these three flights that take off this Wednesday “serve to exemplify and show that the solution exists.” Between now and 2030 there are important milestones for biofuels in aviation and in the future “this type of flight will be the normal way to travel”, he pointed out.

In addition, the president of Iberia stressed that “there is a misconception that electrification is sustainability, and it does not always have to be that way.” In his opinion, a “slightly calmer” debate is needed, although he knows that governments make decisions “by legislatures”, while changes in the aeronautical sector can take “decades”.

“Aviation faces a very challenging challenge that can only be achieved by taking steps like this, which promote the production of fuels from sustainable sources in sufficient quantity and at competitive prices, so that this allows us to advance in the ecological transition of the aviation sector” Sanchez-Prieto explained.

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