Iberia and Repsol stage Spain’s first comercial flight using biofuel

5th Oct 2011
Iberia and Repsol stage Spain’s first comercial flight using biofuel

Iberia and Repsol today staged Spain’s first commercial flight powered by biofuel. An Iberia Airbus A320 flying from Madrid to Barcelona burned some 2,600 kg of a mixture of conventional A-1 jet fuel and biofuel derived from the camelina sativa plant. The use of the mixture resulted in a reduction of nearly 1,500 kg of C02 emissions.

The second-generation biofuel is a mixture made by ASA of synthesized paraffin bio-kerosene produced by Honeywell-UOP and evaluated and certified by Repsol at its Technology Centre, which allows for an almost 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The fuel has the same characteristics as A-1 jet fuel generally used in aviation and has a 25% content of biofuel made from Camelina sativa, an inedible oil plant that grows widely and can be cultivated in Spain.

Iberia provided the aircraft, crew, handling services, etc. for the test. For ground assistance, Iberia used the iON Peugeot electric vehicles it is now testing for airport use.

Iberia also supplied the technical and maintenance services at La Muñoza, near Madrid Barajas airport, where the airplane was fueled. Together with the Airbus Company and the engine manufacturers Iberia has closely monitored the technical and operational certification of this new biofuel.

Repsol produced and delivered the fuel, which was evaluated under high-performance conditions and approved at its research facility. The company has long experience in the development of biofuels at its Technology Centre, one of the most advanced of its kind in Europe and where a number of investigations in this field are currently under way.


The flight was a part of Spain’s pioneering “Green Flight” project, which started in February 2011, to advance in the use of biofuels in aviation.

The use of such fuel is part of Iberia’s strategic plan, which contains a number of measures intended to combat climate change.

Iberia’s chairman Antonio Vázquez commented that “Iberia is proud to contribute our experience as an airline and an aircraft maintenance company to this initiative. The fight against climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face, and biofuels are essential for reducing our reliance on oil, increasing our competitiveness, and achieving the ambitious emissions-reduction targets set by the airline industry.” Iberia has been included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes and for last three years has been listed as the top scorer in the industry in environmental indices. 

Repsol’s Downstream division Director General Pedro Fernandez Frial said the biofuel-powered flight “is another step for Repsol in its commitment to sustainable mobility, driving the development of second-generation biofuels.” He added that Repsol’s New Energy unit “is contributing to the vision of a more diversified and sustainable energy future.” The Spanish oil company’s sustainability policies have earned it worldwide recognition, and this year Dow Jones has listed it the world’s most transparent and sustainable oil company for its strategy to combat climate change through sustainable refining and the making of clean fuels, among many other initiatives.

Following the successful flight, the two companies will consider new initiatives allowing them to advance in the research, development and use of biofuels in commercial aviation.


Iberia’s’ participation in this biofuel test flight is part of a wider strategic plan to operate in a more sustainable fashion and to help protect the environment.

As a member of IATA, Iberia takes part in the Future Strategy initiative which has set a 2020 deadline to reach zero growth in aircraft C02 emissions. The Spanish airline is also an active participant in the European SESAR program to optimize the use of European air space to reduce fuel consumption and atmospheric emissions.

The company is constantly renewing its fleet, and the acquisition of modern aircraft enabled it to reduce CO2 emissions by 4% in 2010 and by nearly 10% in the past five years. Iberia plans to replace part of its long-haul fleet with up to 16 new Airbus A330s, powered by the latest fuel-efficient engines that can reduce CO2 emissions by 15% from the levels produced by the Airbus A340s now in operation.

Iberia’s strategic environmental plan encompasses a number of initiatives, including the company’s involvement in obtaining biofuels to be used in commercial aviation. With this aim, Iberia recently signed an agreement with the Spanish Air Traffic Control and Air Safety Services and Studies agency (SENASA) and the Airbus aircraft manufacturer to support the development, production, and sustainable use of biofuels for aviation in Spain. To this project Iberia is contributing its experience as an airline and an aircraft maintenance company, and will carry out tests using its engines and aircraft. The company is also participating in a research project aimed at obtaining biofuel from microalgae.


Repsol is committed to the development of a new energy model that ensures sustainable supply of energy for mobility. The company is pursuing several initiatives on bioenergy and renewable energy applied to transportation and channelled through its New Energy business unit.

Repsol has a strong track record in the research, development, and marketing of biofuels, and holds several patents in the area of cultivation microalgae for fuel production. Its Kuosol subsidiary specializes in biofuel sources that do not compete with food production.

In the aviation sector Repsol participates in several forums such as the Observatory of Sustainable Energies for Aviation. Its Technology Centre seeks solutions to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions.


Aeropuertos y Servicios Auxiliares (ASA) is a decentralized agency of the Mexican federal government, founded in 1965, with 76 years in the airport business and 32 years as exclusive supplier of aviation fuel in Mexico.

It now operates a network of 18 airports ion Mexico and supplies aviation fuel from a total of 61 outlets. For more than two year ASA has been working on a project aimed at moving towards the use of sustainable biofuels for aviation in the country, and it is now producing such fuels.   

The Mexican and Spanish governments have been working closely together since November, 2010, when they signed an agreement on sustainable and safe air transportation, to develop their respective civil aviation industries, and there is also a specific agreement about aviation biofuel between ASA and Spain Air Safety Agency.


Airbus is playing a vital role to speed the certification and marketing of biofuels, and has worked closely with Iberia to prepare this flight. “We think that the use of biofuels is essential to meet the challenge of cutting aircraft C02 emissions, and we congratulate Iberia for its first flight using biofuel,” said Paul Nash, head of Airbus’ New Energy unit. 

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