Interview with Mexico's SAF Contest winner
Noticias Airbus sat down with Rogelio Sotelo-Boyás, one of the members of the winning team of the SAF contest launched in Mexico by Airbus and key players in the Mexican aerospace sector to submit proposals on ways to accelerate the production and scalability of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF).
Rogelio is a petroleum chemical engineer and project manager at the National Polytechnic Institute.
1. Tell us a bit about your background and your participation in the project.
I graduated from the School of Chemical Engineering and Extractive Industries at the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN). During my undergraduate studies, I earned a scholarship to work with the Mexican Petroleum Institute, doing social service, professional internships and later participating in projects. For my doctorate, I studied Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University. Two years later, I went to Japan and took a course on Biomass research technology studying the whole part of bioethanol, biodiesel, and biogas, and collaborated in a project on hydrocracking of vegetable oils at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology of Japan.
When I returned to Mexico, I looked for a group of students & colleagues and started to work with them to combine chemical engineering with biofuels. I have focused on developing economically-viable and technologically-advanced projects without losing sight of my specialty, which is modeling and simulation of chemical processes considering environmental sustainability.
2. How do the results of the contest compare to your initial thoughts and expectations?
In the beginning, I didn't have high expectations. I think it is more interesting to participate and discover throughout the process, and by learning new things. So, for me to see that participating in an event where you feel that they are listening to you, and that what you are going to say is important to them, was very rewarding, and I look forward to future collaboration.
3. How was your experience presenting the project to the panelists?
It was very, very gratifying to see the other two finalists present their projects. As it happened, we presented last. I got an idea of what they had investigated, and it seemed very interesting and insightful.
To present our work and exchange knowledge with a panel of academics is always gratifying and fulfilling. Also, the advice that we received from the airlines helped us better understand the challenges of the SAF market today. To understand their expectations and exchange on their knowhow of how they used biofuel before really helped. Additionally, I found the information shared with us from CORSIA very insightful , it helped us better understand the permitted limits of environmental impact for SAF production.
4. What was your favorite moment?
When we realized that we were the winners. The truth is that I think we understood well what the contest was aiming to achieve. Now we have to work on improving our weak point on the topic of scalability, which is more challenging to study properly.
We realized that we had an advantage when we noticed that we were the only ones presenting our own studies, but still… We were not sure that we were going to win, so it was very gratifying to be announced as the winners.
Aviation represents between 2-3% percent of global CO2 emissions. Airbus is focused on reducing its emissions and is contributing to the ambition set by IATA, ATAG and ICAO to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. SAF is considered as a key decarbonisation pillar to meet these global decarbonization ambitions and can contribute more than 50% in emissions reduction to meet ATAG’s Scenario 3 outlook to NetZero in 2050.
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