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Iberia conducts first flight with waste-derived SAF produced in Spain

Spain-headed national ar carrier Iberia L.A.E. (IBERIA), part of International Airlines Group (IAG), and compatriot oil, gas, and multi-energy major, Repsol S.A. (Repsol) have completed the first flight using waste-derived sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) made in Spain. Manufactured and supplied by Repsol, the SAF used on the Madrid–Bilbao route was produced at its Petronor Industrial Complex in Bilbao using waste.

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Iberia L.A.E. (IBERIA) has completed the first flight in Spain using waste-derived sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) manufactured and supplied by Repsol S.A. (Repsol) from its Petronor Industrial Complex (photo courtesy Repsol).

The SAF used is part of the batch produced in August 2021 at Repsol’s Petronor Industrial Complex, which is located near Bilbao. The scheduled Iberia Madrid-Bilbao flight, flight IB 426 was operated using an Airbus A320neo aircraft, currently one of the world’s most efficient aircraft.

The flight also performed more efficiently through a flight operation that improves fuel efficiency by reaching the optimum altitude level in the climb and descent phases.

It has managed to reduce the emission of 1.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), thanks to the improved fuel efficiency provided by the aircraft, together with the use of SAF and flight operation that improves fuel efficiency by reaching the optimum altitude level in the climb and descent phases.

In addition, a zero-emissions electric-powered aviation fuel supply vehicle has been used for refueling. All ground operations – loading and unloading of baggage, assistance to the aircraft, and towing to the runway – have used the most efficient vehicles that Iberia Airport Services has deployed throughout its network of airports in Spain.

The first domestic batch of waste-derived SAF

The batch of SAF used is the third manufactured by Repsol and the first on the Spanish market produced from waste as raw material. The energy company thus integrates circular economy instruments in the process, transforming waste into high added-value products such as low carbon footprint fuels.

Two previous SAF batches were produced from biomass at Repsol’s industrial complexes in Puertollano and Tarragona respectively.

This initiative is part of the collaboration agreement towards more sustainable mobility signed by Repsol and Iberia last July and is in line with the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The agreement translates into the development of ambitious joint programs and activities in three areas:

  • the development of low-carbon aviation fuels;
  • the production of electricity and renewable hydrogen to decarbonize Iberia’s fleet of vehicles;
  • and the ecological transition to more sustainable facilities through new technologies based on artificial intelligence (AI), among others.

The use of SAF in the flight marks the first milestone in the roadmap of the agreement, which envisages future flights using SAF with a low carbon footprint to achieve more sustainable and efficient mobility in the aviation sector.

Electrification is not seen as viable at the moment and renewable hydrogen still requires a technological breakthrough in aircraft, so SAF will be the fastest and most efficient option for reducing emissions in air transport over the next few years.

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