Airbus and TAM Airlines to support jatropha-based bio-kerosene jet fuel processing plant project in Brazil
TAM's Airbus A320 biofuel demonstration flight (photo: Airbus)
Fri 10 Dec 2010 – Airbus and Brazilian carrier TAM Airlines have joined with a group of specialist companies to establish a bio-kerosene jet fuel processing plant in Brazil. The group is led by Curcas, which specializes in renewable energy project development, and biofuel producer Brasil Ecodiesel. In parallel, Airbus and AirBP – the jet fuel distribution unit of BP – are providing support to the project, with Airbus also sponsoring sustainability studies. The plant is expected to start operations in 2013 with an initial processing capacity of 80,000 tonnes (around 26.4 million US gallons) of jet biofuel per year. Last month, TAM performed a jatropha-based biofuel flight using an Airbus A320 aircraft (see story).
“Airbus is bringing together farmers, oil refiners and airlines to spearhead the commercialization of sustainable biofuel production in Brazil and worldwide,” commented Paul Nash, Head of New Energies at Airbus. “As well as analyzing 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.”
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. For the TAM demonstration flight, jatropha grains produced by farmers throughout Brazil were refined through an oil extraction process and exported to the US for processing into jet bio-kerosene by UOP and blended 50:50 with regular aviation kerosene.
TAM is implementing a jatropha placement trial at its Technology Center in São Carlos with the purpose of assessing the sustainability of different production models in order to identify the best techniques and genetic material. The Airbus-sponsored sustainability studies relating to the trial will be conducted at Yale University in the United States.
“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,” said Curcas CEO Rafael Abud. “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.”
Final approval of the commercial use of jet bio-kerosene in 50:50 blends by certification standards body ASTM International is expected within the next few months. Just over a week ago, Lufthansa announced it is to commence the world’s first scheduled daily flights from April 2011 using a biofuel blended jet fuel on an Airbus A321 aircraft (see story).