Airbus ramps up its jet biofuel initiatives with first Mexican demo flight and a Spanish biofuel production study
Interjet Airbus A320
Fri 1 Apr 2011 – Mexico’s first aviation jet biofuel flight takes place today as Interjet carries out a demonstration flight between Mexico City’s International Airport and the Angel Albino Corzo of Tuxtla Gutierrez airport in the southern state of Chiapas. One engine of a CFM-powered Airbus A320 will use a 27 per cent blend of biofuel made from jatropha sourced from Chiapas and produced by Honeywell’s UOP, and 73% of conventional Jet A-1. Also actively involved with the project is state-owned Airports and Auxiliary Services (ASA), which is leading plans for one per cent of jet fuel consumption to be met from sustainable biofuels by 2015. Following the announcement of a Romanian biofuel initiative last week, Airbus has signed an agreement with the Spanish government and Iberia that aims to develop an aviation biofuel production value chain in Spain.
The jatropha curcas for the Mexican flight has been sustainably sourced by the Government of the State of Chiapas, according the Ministry of Communication and Transportation. Cultivating bioenergy crops on marginal is part of an integrated production strategy that will generate income for many communities, it says.
“The test flight is the realisation of a two-year ambition for Interjet to develop a production chain for renewable biofuel, with the purpose of creating a Mexican platform for sustainable aviation bio-keresone,” said Miguel Aleman, President of low-cost carrier Interjet.
Airbus says CO2 life-cycle studies have shown that jatropha has the potential to reduce the overall CO2 footprint by up to 80% over standard kerosene.
“Airbus, Interjet and the many stakeholders involved in making today’s flight a reality, have taken an important step towards establishing an aviation biofuel solution that is both commercially viable and environmentally sustainable,” said Paul Nash, Airbus Head of New Energies.
The 2015 target of 1% of total fuel demand to be met by alternative local sources represents a production of 40 million litres per year, with a further goal of reaching 15% by 2020. Once a net exporter of oil, rising demand has left Mexico seeking foreign imports, a situation the government is looking to change.
The Spanish agreement was signed during this week’s Aerodays event by the country’s Transport Secretary of State, Isaís Táboas, Iberia Airlines Chairman Antonio Vazquez and Airbus President and CEO Tom Enders. Other partners are expected to join the venture.
“The implementation of biofuels by the Spanish aviation industry for the development of a complete Spanish ‘value chain’ is a goal that will reduce our dependency on fossil energy, make our companies more competitive by reducing costs associated to CO2 and create value and wealth in other sectors of our national economy,” said Táboas. “We are fully confident that both, the public and private sector can cooperate in the development and implementation of this initiative.”
Iberia’s Vazquez commented: “Climate change is a major challenge for our industry. The aviation sector’s ambitious CO2 reduction target is only possible if biofuels become a reality. Under this initiative, Iberia brings extensive experience in flight operations and in aircraft maintenance to perform the necessary tests that will make this goal a reality.”
The agreement will promote and back initiatives to develop a complete biofuel production chain for Spanish aviation, said Airbus, that will use sustainable resources from production to consumption, with special consideration on economic and technical analysis. Airbus said it will be providing expertise and management of the feasibility, life-cycle and sustainability analysis. The value chain aims to bring together farmers, oil refiners and airlines into the commercialisation process.
Unlike the TAROM venture announced last week (see story), which will focus on camelina as the biofuel source, no particular feedstock has been identified so far in the Spanish initiative. Phase one of the project will be a feasibility study, with phase two narrowing down the most promising solutions to a demonstration level. From 2014 onwards, a third phase will look at implementation and scaling up of the production process.
“Biofuels are a must for aviation to achieve our industry’s ambitious CO2 reduction targets. In fact, we believe that biofuels should primarily be reserved for aviation as our industry has no other viable alternative energy source,” said Tom Enders. “All industry players including governments have a role in helping to reduce global CO2 emission levels. Airbus is supporting value chains to accelerate the commercialisation of aviation bio-fuels.”
The initiative is being lead by the State Agency for Aviation Safety (AESA) and the Services and Studies for Air Navigation and Aeronautical Safety/Observatory of Sustainability in Aviation (SENASA/OBSA), under the Ministries of the Environment, of Public Works and of Industry.