Airbus together with TAM Airlines and a group of specialist companies are working to establish a bio-kerosene jet-fuel processing plant in Brazil, aiming to gradually substitute fossil fuel in aviation with biofuel. On November 22nd a major milestone was accomplished when TAM Airlines and Airbus performed the first Jatropha-based biofuel flight in Latin America, using an Airbus A320 aircraft.
The group of companies is led by Curcas which specialises in Brazilian renewable energy project development, and the Brazilian biofuel producer, Brasil Ecodiesel. In parallel, Airbus and AirBP – the jet fuel distribution unit of BP – are providing their support to the project.
“Airbus is bringing together farmers, oil-refiners and airlines to spearhead the commercialisation of sustainable biofuel production in Brazil and worldwide,” says Paul Nash, Airbus head of New Energies. “As well as analysing the suitability of potential biofuels for aviation, Airbus is also supporting life-cycle and sustainability projects to ensure that any CO2 emissions-reducing solutions have a positive ‘social’ impact and do not compete with local resources including land, food or water,” he added.
The initiative which began in 2009, involved TAM acquiring sufficient jatropha-based oil to conduct the A320 demonstration flight. The jatropha grains produced by farmers throughout agricultural areas in Brazil, were refined through an oil extraction process and exported to the US, where it was processed into bio-kerosene by UOP LLC (a Honeywell Company) to make a 50:50 blend with regular aviation kerosene.
Curcas’ CEO Rafael Abud said: “We are working on an integrated collaborative approach by putting together strong partners from the aviation and the biofuels segments with the purpose of developing a fully integrated ‘value-chain’ in Brazil, from plant sciences and feedstock development to the distribution of the fuel at the airports”. He adds: “In this initial phase we will conduct all studies necessary to verify sustainability and economic viability of producing bio-kerosene. This project strengthens the Brazilian leadership in biofuels and will produce relevant environmental and social benefits”.
Brasil Ecodiesel’s CEO José Carlos Aguilera said: “The bio-kerosene market is a reality and promises significant growth potential, especially since the European Union has included aviation as an important element for global carbon emission reductions. Our participation in this pioneering project is aligned with our plans for diversifying our biofuel portfolio”.
Notes to editors:The project will use diverse biomass sources as feedstock, with a special interest in the jatropha plant, grown by family farmers and large plantations in Brazil. TAM is implementing a ‘jatropha placement trial’ at its Technology Center in São Carlos, Brazil with the purpose of assessing sustainability of different production models in order to identify the best techniques and genetic material.The sustainability studies relating to this placement trial are sponsored by Airbus and will be conducted at Yale University in the US.The processing plant should start operations in 2013 with initial processing capacity of 80,000 tonnes per annum of the fuel.Airbus supports all industry wide efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Bio-kerosene is in the final stage of approval by ASTM in the US to be blended up to 50 percent with regular jet fuel when used in commercial flights.