Every year, the aviation sector transports 2,200 million passengers across the globe which is an essential element of a global society. According to IATA (The International Air Transport Association) estimates, in 2050 there will be 16,000 million passengers. The constant growth of traffic is presenting the aviation industry with the challenge of catering for this growing demand whilst also cutting emissions.
The formula for achieving cleaner flying will come from more efficient planes with improved engines and turbines, the use of lighter materials for aircraft construction so as to cut consumption, as well as from the intensive use of biofuels which mitigate carbon footprint. Airlines, aircraft manufacturers and energy companies are all involved in this technological innovation effort.
"The biokerosene that we are using is capable of achieving optimal performance from the propulsion of the plane", announced Pedro Fernández Frial, Repsol's Executive Director of Downstream at the first biofuel flight, who believes that "the work being done on biofuels is opening up a very promising future".
Another plant that is being developed to produce 2nd generation biofuel is jatropha. Some airline companies have already conducted flights powered with this biokerosene and Repsol has plans for large scale development of this crop. "We envisage an estimated timeframe of 3-4 years to produce large quantities of this oil because this plant obviously takes a long time to grow", explains Temprano.
The second generation biofuels do not compete with food crops, either for land or for resources such as water
García Cabañas considers Iberia and Repsol's biofuel flight as the "first step towards a new market that is opening up in Europe as of 2012, following the introduction of new standards to limit aviation CO2 emissions" As of 1st January, airline companies have to purchase and submit emission allowances for all flights departing from or arriving at EU airports, which means that "there will be widespread demand from airline companies for this type of fuel".
Although progress in this field is fast, Temprano points out however that there are still some challenges to be overcome. "We are making a huge commitment in terms of technology to master the cultivation of this crop and control the production of energy so that it is economically competitive".
Repsol has an ambitious biofuel production programme using microalgae