This is how garbage is converted into fuel for boats and planes :: Iberian Press for Repsol


Maria Torres


To this day, there is little doubt that electrification is a great ally for reducing emissions in mobility. But when transport involves large vehicles that must travel long distances, with very heavy loads, such as the plane or ship, greater autonomy and other types of more operational solutions are sought. As the experts from the Berlin Clean Transport Ideas Laboratory, the Agora Verkehrswende point out: “Ships and aircraft will continue to need liquid or gaseous fuels in the future in order to function.” The key to change, in this case, is to incorporate fuels that have a low or no carbon footprint, known as eco-fuels.

Two types stand out among them: on the one hand, synthetic fuels, obtained from CO2 captured and renewable hydrogen; and, on the other, advanced biofuels. These last are made from biological waste, from solid urban waste to agricultural or forestry waste.

With the use of these biofuels, carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by at least 65% compared to traditional fuels. In addition, they offer synergies with current technologies. As stated Miguel Ángel García Carreño, Process Development Manager at Repsol Technology Lab: “Their chemical composition is very similar to that of conventional fuels, so they are fully compatible with current vehicles with combustion engines, which avoids having to develop new technologies and makes it possible to take advantage of the wide network of distribution and refueling infrastructures already existing”. In sectors such as heavy road transport or aviation, which are difficult to electrify, they will be essential because they are a real and available solution to reduce emissions.



Types of transport and most suitable fuel

Currently, light transport moves with gasoline and diesel and only a small part is bio, but, according to García Carreño, “in the future, we may circulate with ethanol, the alcohol that comes, in many cases, from the fermentation of cereals. , such as corn, or even the organic fraction of garbage, replacing gasoline, and biofuels produced from vegetable oils, used cooking oil or even solid urban, agricultural and forestry waste, instead of diesel ”. In the case of heavy transport, the most recurrent alternative today is the evolution from diesel to bio or synthetic.

In maritime transport, ecodiesel is the sustainable option for small fishing fleets, pleasure boats or ferries. For international freight transport by ship and large ferries, which run on fuel oil, the forecasts for the fuel options with the smallest footprint range from liquefied natural gas (LNG), biomethanol, synthetic fuels made from renewable hydrogen and CO2 captured or even ammonia produced with renewable hydrogen.

For its part, the great hope of the aviation sector are sustainable aviation fuels (Sustainable Aviation Fuel or SAF), among which the bioquerosenos or biojet stand out, produced from solid urban waste or biomass. In Spain, the first three batches of biojet have been produced by Repsol and their use will prevent the emission into the atmosphere of more than 1,000 tons of CO2.

Precisely, on November 3, the the first flight powered by biofuel manufactured in Spain. This flight, operated by Iberia, made the Madrid-Bilbao route using biofuel manufactured by Repsol from waste from the agri-food industry, thus avoiding the emission of 1.4 tons of CO into the atmosphere.2.



Countries with the most biofuel production in 2018


Statistics: World ranking of the main biofuel producing countries in 2020 (in thousands of oil equivalent barrels per day) |  Statista

Source: Statista 2021

What are eco-fuels

  • They are liquid fuels that come from renewable raw materials, with zero or low CO emissions2 during its production and final use.
  • They are manufactured with alternative raw materials with a low carbon footprint: sustainable vegetable oils, used vegetable oils, animal fats, sustainable biomass, waste of different types (waste from the agri-food industry, forest and agricultural waste, organic fraction of urban waste … ), CO2 captured from industry or the atmosphere …
  • The CO2 emitted when they are used is equivalent to the one captured when the raw material used in their manufacture is generated. They are therefore zero net emissions.
  • They are highly versatile, with multiple applications in the mobility and industrial sectors.
  • They have physicochemical properties similar to current fuels and high energy density. Therefore, they can be used in today’s car, truck, airplane and ship engines without the need for modifications.
  • They can be supplied through the extensive distribution and refueling network already in place for gasoline, diesel and jet.



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