Iberia and Aena launch microalgae project to investigate potential for aircraft and ground vehicle biofuels
Fri 6 May 2011 – A research facility is to be set up at Madrid-Barajas Airport by Iberia, airport authority Aena and microalgae technology company AlgaEnergy to explore the potential of microalgae as a biofuel to power airport ground vehicles and aircraft. To be installed near Terminal 4, the facility will have an initial budget of 600,000 euros ($860,000) and is due to become operational next month. The overall project will involve research and experimentation as well as improving technologies for sequestering carbon dioxide and the cultivation of microalgae. The purpose is to reduce the production costs of biomass and to achieve profitable biofuel production. A month ago, Iberia signed an agreement with Airbus and the Spanish government with the aim of developing a complete ‘value chain’ in the country to produce aviation biofuels.
The site for the Barajas facility has been granted by Aena and will be managed by AlgaEnergy. Helping with the design are scientists from the Plant Biochemistry and Photosynthesis Institute and from the universities of Seville and Almeria.
It will be supplied with distilled water from Iberia’s purification plant at its industrial site in the airport complex and with CO2 from Aena, which will be recovered from Iberia’s aircraft engine bench test facility in the airline’s maintenance hangars.
Also taking part in the project is oil company Repsol, a shareholder and technology partner of AlgaEnergy, which will convert the biomass oils obtained into biofuel.
Research into the cultivation and production of microalgae biomass at the facility will be aimed, said Iberia, at improving essential aspects of fat-rich algae-based biofuel from which second-generation biofuel can be made. The new facility will also supply biomass to partners in the CENIT-VIDA programme (Comprehensive Evaluation of Microalgae), headed by the utility company Iberdrola, also an AlgaEnergy shareholder.
The initiative Iberia signed at the end of March with Airbus, air safety agency AESA and the Services and Studies for Air Navigation and Aeronautical Safety/Observatory of Sustainability in Aviation (SENASA/OBSA) will bring together farmers, oil refiners and airlines to spearhead the commercialisation of sustainable biofuel production in the country. Phase one of the project will be a feasibility study. Phase two will narrow down the most promising solutions and feedstocks to a demonstration level, and the third phase – due to start in 2014 – will look at implementation and scaling up of the production process.
“The implementation of biofuels for aviation in Spain, as a ‘value chain framework’, is a goal that will reduce our dependence on oil, make our companies more competitive by reducing costs associated with CO2 and create value and wealth in other sectors of the economy,” Isaías Táboas, State Secretary of Transport, said of the venture.