European aircraft manufacturer Airbus and Mexican budget airline Interjet successfully conducted the first Jatropha-based biofuel flight in Mexico.
The demonstration flight from Mexico City to the southern city of Tuxtla Gutierrez was carried out Friday using an Airbus A320-214, one of whose engines used 30 percent biofuel and the rest kerosene-type jet fuel.
The next step is to enlist the support of authorities, lawmakers, private enterprise and environmental authorities to ensure the project moves forward, Gilberto Lopez Meyer, director of Airports and Auxiliary Services, one of the main promoters of the project, told EFE.
The International Civil Aviation Organization, a UN agency, has set a goal of reducing global, aviation-related carbondioxide emissions and promoting the partial or total use of renewable fuels.
Lopez Meyer said that industrial-scale production of Jatropha-based bio-fuel will begin in the mid-term because at least four special refineries are needed and will require investment of between $120-180 million.
The goal is to cover at least 1 percent of domestic jet-fuel demand with this biofuel by 2015, equivalent to some 40 million liters annually, and for that share to climb to 15 percent by 2020, or more than 700 million liters a year, he said.
The project’s leaders say biofuels currently carry a very high cost because they are in a test phase but could be much more economical over the long term.
A litre of kerosene-type jet fuel currently costs 10.80 pesos ($0.90), compared with a cost of 150 pesos ($12.50) to produce a litre of Jatropha-based bio-fuel cost.
Jatropha plants, the source of this bio-fuel, are harvested in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. A total of 12,500 hectares have been planted to date.
The goal for this year is to increase the planted area by another 7,000 hectares, according to Chiapas Gov. Juan Sabines, who made the remarks during the plane’s arrival in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas’ capital.
Mexico has now become the second Latin American country — after Brazil — to conduct a test flight with biofuel made from the Jatropha plant.