Brazilian consortium to evaluate technical and sustainability potential of sugar cane derived renewable jet fuel
Azul Embraer 190 E-Jet (photo: Embraer)
Mon 23 Nov 2009 – Brazilian airplane maker Embraer, engine manufacturer General Electric and renewable chemicals and transport fuel producer Amyris have joined forces to evaluate the potential of renewable jet fuel derived from sugar cane feedstock. If tests prove successful, the partners anticipate using the fuel on a demonstration flight in early 2012 of a GE-powered Embraer E-Jet belonging to Brazilian airline Azul Linhas Aéreas. The consortium says the Amyris No Compromise jet fuel has already undergone previous testing by the US Air Force Research Laboratory, Southwest Research Institute and GE Aviation. Amyris says its jet fuel “is unlike other renewable jet fuel alternatives” and performs well at low temperatures, can be produced in the US at competitive economics, and meets initial certification criteria.
“Greening the skies is a rather complex subject and requires broad industry expertise and commitment,” said Embraer President and CEO Frederico Fleury Curado. “The partnership with top-level players will certainly represent an important step towards this endeavour.”
Chuck Nugent, General Manager of GE Aviation Small Commercial Engines, said: “GE is committed to develop and produce the most fuel efficient and environmentally friendly jet engines for airlines worldwide. However, much additional work is required in other areas, in order to achieve greener skies.”
David Neeleman, Chairman of the new Brazilian domestic carrier Azul, commented: “This is a great innovative step by the airline industry in the fight against global warming.” Neeleman was formerly the CEO and Chairman of US low-cost carrier JetBlue, which is also planning a biofuel demonstration flight in conjunction with Airbus.
Through the FINEP project, the Brazilian government is already contributing funding to the Amyris renewable jet fuel development programme. The country has the world’s largest crop of sugar cane and the company says fuel production can be scaled up dramatically and be produced at low cost.
Amyris produces its renewable fuel using synthetic biology. By altering the metabolic pathways of micro-organisms such as yeast, the company is able to engineer what it describes as ‘living factories’ that transform sugar into a range of renewable products, including diesel fuel, jet fuel and performance chemicals. Through a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Amyris is developing technology that will speed up the production of artemisinin, a botanical source used to help fight malaria.
Brazil presented a paper at last week’s ICAO Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels, held in Rio de Janeiro, on the technological feasibility and economic viability of sugar cane ethanol.