Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Biofuel Powers Commercial Flight in Mexico



Mexican airline Interjet has successfully completed the first commercial biofuel flight in Latin America. Flight 2605, which used a jatropha-based fuel that reduces air pollution by 80 percent, flew round-trip from Mexico City to Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of the state of Chiapas, where jatropha grows. Interjet joins European carriers KLM and Lufthansa in pioneering commercial biofuel flight. 

The Airbus A320/200 operating the Interjet flight was powered by a blend of 27 percent jatropha-based fuel and 73 percent kerosene. A total of 12,716 liters (3,360 gallons) were consumed for the 800-kilometers (497 miles) flight. The jatropha used for the flight was cropped in Chiapas and turned into fuel at a Honeywell subsidiary in the United States.

Jatropha curcas is a flowering plant that contains seeds, harvested by Chiapas farmers, which are predominantly used to produce biodiesel. It is not yet a viable substitute for petroleum-based fuels because its production is not sufficiently large. According to Interjet CEO Jose Luis Garza, who was aboard the flight to Tuxtla Gutierrez, “Production of this fuel is very expensive, several times more than conventional fuel.” But, he added, “We didn’t raise the price of the tickets. The goal is to raise awareness.” Currently, the land in Chiapas is overexploited and jatropha production could be a way to recover it, he said.

Aeropuertos y Servicios Auxiliares—the state-owned company managing Mexico’s airports and supply of aviation fuel—has said that more jatropha could be produced if demand were higher. The Mexican government aims to produce 700 million liters (185 million gallons) of biofuel a year by 2020 and become a leading biofuel producer in the region. Among the plans to stimulate production are the Convenio General de Colaboración  con el Consejo para el Desarrollo Económico de Sinaloa (General Cooperation Agreement with the Sinaloa Council for Economic Development), which aims to promote the commercialization of jatropha-based fuels.

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