Funding secured for Brazilian research study into the sustainability of renewable jet fuel sourced from sugarcane
Mon 15 Aug 2011 – The regional initiative launched in June by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to provide finance for renewable jet fuel projects in Latin America and the Caribbean has made its first grant. The IDB, along with aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Embraer, is to fund a sustainability analysis of producing jet fuel from Brazilian sugarcane. The study will evaluate environmental and market conditions for the use of renewable jet fuel produced by synthetic biofuel technology company Amyris. It will be led by ICONE, an agricultural research think-tank in Brazil, and will be independently reviewed and advised by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). In 2009, Embraer and Amyris announced a sustainable jet fuel initiative that aims to conduct a demonstration flight in 2012 of a GE-powered Embraer aircraft belonging to Brazilian airline Azul using biofuel derived from sugarcane.
Scheduled for completion early next year, the ICONE study will include a complete lifecycle analysis of the emissions associated with the Amyris ‘No Compromise’ jet fuel, including indirect land-use change and effects. In addition, it will include benchmarking of cane-derived renewable jet fuel against major sustainability standards, including the Bonsucro, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels and the Biofuels Sustainability Scorecard adopted by the IDB.
Sugar-derived jet biofuels were not included in the recent ASTM certification process and so cannot be used on commercial flights but, according to Amyris CEO John Melo, ASTM has now set up a task force to establish product specifications for direct sugar-to-hydrocarbon renewable jet fuels such as those being developed by Amyris.
“This study will help us replace fossil fuels with a renewable jet fuel that surpasses both technical and sustainability criteria,” he said.
Embraer’s Director of Environmental Strategy and Technology, Guilherme de Almeida Freire, commented: “Participation in this important study is one more step for Embraer to support the development of sustainable biofuels for aviation. Brazil is a rich source of biomass, and the maturation of this technology, based on sugarcane, reinforces the importance that the nation gives to the sustainable growth of aviation.”
The leader of the IDB Sustainable Aviation Biofuels Initiative, Arnaldo Vieira de Carvalho, said: “Emerging renewable jet fuel technologies have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly, as sugarcane ethanol in Brazil has already proven. This study will examine the overall potential for sustainable, large-scale production of alternative jet fuels made from sugarcane.”
The IDB is employing grant resources from its Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Fund to finance activities under its jet fuel initiative. Countries that have already started developing sustainable jet fuels in the region, including Brazil, Mexico and Colombia, will be among the first to benefit from the grants, said the bank (see article).
“As renewable jet fuel production increases, it must be done in a transparent and sustainable way,” said Kevin Ogorzalek, Program Officer at WWF. “We’re eager to contribute to this study as one part of a growing international effort to reduce the fast-growing emissions from aviation and protect the critical resources on which we all depend.”
Billy Glover, Boeing VP of Environment and Aviation Policy, said collaborative research into the cane-to-jet pathway was important for diversifying aviation fuel supplies and ensuring the sustainability of sources that could feed into regional supply chains, such as in Brazil, was critical.
He added the project expanded on an existing collaboration between Boeing, Amyris and the State Government of Queensland, Australia. In May 2010, an international research project led by the University of Queensland and backed by Boeing, Amyris and Virgin Blue, was launched to develop renewable jet fuel from algae. The Queensland government contributed A$2 million (S2.1m) to the project through the host university’s Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, with Boeing adding A$450,000 and Amyris a further A$1 million.