Spain: Leaders in sustainable aviation fuel

SAF, a boost for the environment and Spain's economy.

A passenger aircraft being refuelled. Credit: Jaromir Chalabala/

Spain is now emerging as a frontrunner in the sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry, a vital step towards decarbonising air travel, and a boost for the economy.

On April 5, Repsol inaugurated the first dedicated SAF production facility on the Iberian Peninsula, situated in Cartagena, with a substantial capacity to produce 250,000 tonnes annually.

In addition, recent initiatives by Solarig and Cepsa are set to further expand Spain’s capabilities in this field, challenging the production levels of other leading European nations such as France and Italy.

Investment surge in green fuel

The transition to large-scale production has been propelled by significant investments. For instance, a recent venture announced by Solarig and the Government of Castilla y Leon involves a €780 million investment for a new facility in Soria.

Meanwhile, Cepsa is constructing what it claims will be the largest plant in southern Europe in Huelva, aiming to produce 500,000 tonnes of SAF annually.

Carlos Diaz, head of Repsol’s renewable fuel projects, emphasised, ‘We are in the market and our clients demand it from us, society is demanding a change from us and because of the regulation, the EU directives are beginning to establish an obligation to use SAF,’ reported 20 Minutos.

Raw material and rural revival

The raw materials for this rapidly growing industry include recycled cooking oil and agricultural waste, presenting not only a sustainable alternative to conventional jet fuel but also a potential economic boon for rural areas. These materials, once of little value, could now enhance the profitability of the agricultural sector.

Javier Gandara, president of the Airline Association (ALA), highlighted the critical need for increased production to meet EU mandates, stating, ‘It will be good for the airline sector, but also for the countryside, for emptied Spain, for the industry of our country, in short, for the economy as a whole.’

Future of SAF and technological advances

Looking ahead, the focus will shift towards more advanced biofuels, like those derived from a mix of CO2 and green hydrogen, currently under development by companies like Solarig.

Their new plant, dubbed ‘Numantia SAF,’ is set to commence operations by 2028, aiming to produce 60,000 tonnes of fourth-generation SAF per year.

This strategic move not only promises to reduce the aviation sector’s carbon footprint but also to stimulate economic growth in depopulated areas, leveraging local resources for sustainable development.

The combined efforts of Repsol, Cepsa, and Solarig signal a robust future for Spain’s SAF industry, poised to make a significant impact on both the environment and the economy.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.