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Iberia and Repsol launch Spain's first biofuel flight

Iberia and Repsol this week made the first flight in Spain powered by biofuel, using a mix that included 25 percent derived from camelina, an oleaginous plant cultivated in the United States and processed in Mexico. The plane's journey between Madrid and Barcelona consumed 2,600 kilos of the biodiesel, and saw a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 1.5 tons compared to regular jet fuel.

It was a small saving that could be multiplied when the biodiesel is commercialized, something that is not yet near to fruition. It is not even known how much the fuel will eventually cost although it will be "very expensive," according to Repsol's director of research, Fernando Temprano. Camelina has many advantages as a potential choice of biofuel for aviation, Temprano said, as it can be cultivated in practically any climate. The fuel was supplied to Repsol by Mexican company ASA, which produced the mixture.

However, according to experts, microalgae is the best source for producing alternatives to fossil fuels, such as the kerosene usually used in aviation. For the industry to achieve its target of one percent of biofuel use by 2015 and 15 percent in 2020, other sources will have to be tapped, said Iberia's director of corporate affairs, Manuel López Colmenarejo. The use of these kinds of biofuels does not require any modification of aircraft engines or operating systems. Furthermore, said Joaquín Torregrosa, the pilot of the maiden flight, neither passenger nor crew will notice any difference when flying.