Wednesday March 7 was an historic day for aviation in South America, witnessing the continent’s first ever commercially operated flight powered entirely on bio-fuels.
The company to achieve the milestone was Chile’s LAN Airlines SA, as part of a project in conjunction with the country’s fuel and timber giant, Copec SA, to demonstrate Chile’s renewable energy potential.
Almost 170 people flew the one-hour flight from Santiago to the country’s second largest city, Concepción, on the Airbus 320, including industry and government officials, journalists and LAN and Copec executives.
Afterwards, LAN Chief Operations Officer Ignacio Cueto described the flight as “a dream come true” and called on the country’s energy industry to increase its production of renewable fuels.
“We invite the industry to help expand the use of bio-fuels, and develop an industrial production at levels that allow efficient operation,” he said.
LAN is seeking to reduce its carbon footprint and improve fuel efficiency as the company expands throughout the continent, on the back of recent merger and acquisition deals that have made it the fourth most valuable airline in the world.
The new generation of LAN’s fleet is now equipped to be powered by bio-fuels and the company has plans to reduce its carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2050, and in the short term, increase its use of renewable fuels to 1 percent by 2015 and 5 percent in 2020.
Meanwhile, Copec is in the process of developing second-generation bio-fuel production capacities in Chile. This would allow the country to produce its own bio-fuels without wasting raw materials or food crops, instead using plant and organic waste.
And according to Copec General Manager Lorenzo Gazmuri, Chile has an enormous potential in developing its own renewable fuels and obtaining energy independence.
“Chile has the climate and soil which will benefit the development and generation of energy and have a positive social impact through the creation of jobs,” Gazmuri said.