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TAM Airlines, Curcas and Brasil Ecodiesel partnering to evaluate the production of renewable jet fuel in Brazil; support from Airbus and BP Air

Brazil’s largest airline, TAM Airlines; Curcas Diesel Brasil, a company promoting Jatropha curcas as the key feedstock for the global biodiesel industry; and Brasil Ecodiesel, the country’ largest biodiesel producer, will collaborate to conduct feasibility studies to implement an integrated project for the sustainable production of renewable jet fuel in Brazil. The scope of the investigation includes the agricultural production of feedstock and the industrial production of the fuel and its distribution.

Airbus and Air BP, BP’s aviation fuel distribution unit, are supporting the project. In November, TAM Airlines and Airbus conducted the first Jatropha-based biofuel flight in Latin America, using an Airbus A320. The biofuel, processed by UOP LLC, a Honeywell company, was a 50% blend of locally-sourced Brazilian Jatropha-based bio-kerosene and conventional jet fuel. (Earlier post.)

The project began in 2009, when, to ensure availability of renewable jet fuel for experimental flight conducted in November (above), TAM acquired, through Curcas, jatropha seeds from farms in the North, South-East and Center-East of Brazil, managed to refine it through an oil extraction process and exported the product to the US, where it was processed into biokerosene by UOP LLC, a Honeywell Company to make a 50:50 blend with regular aviation kerosene.

We are working with big companies in the aviation and the biofuels segments to develop a fully integrated value chain in Brazil, from plant sciences and feedstock development to the distribution of the fuel at the airports. In this initial phase we will conduct the studies necessary to verify sustainability and economic viability of producing biokerosene. We expect to start commercial production by 2013.

—Curcas’ CEO Rafael Abud

The project will use diverse biomass sources as feedstock, with a special interest in Jatropha (Jatropha curcas L.), produced by family farmers and large plantations in Brazil.

TAM is implementing a Jatropha Placement Trial in an area of 4.35 hectare with the purpose of assessing sustainability of different production models in order to identify the best techniques and genetic material. The land represents less than 1% of the total farm in São Carlos, Brazil where TAM’s Technology Center is located. The sustainability studies are sponsored by Airbus and will be conducted by Yale University in the US.

Airbus is bringing together farmers, oil refiners and airlines to speed up the commercialization of sustainable bio-fuel production in Brazil and worldwide. As well as analyzing the suitability of potential bio-fuels for aviation, Airbus is also supporting life cycle and sustainability analysis to ensure that any CO2 emissions reductions solutions, do not impact socially or compete for land, food nor water.

—Paul Nash, Airbus head of New Energies

Biokerosene is in advanced stage of approval by ASTM International (international standardization entity in several industrial segments) in the US to be used blended up to 50% with regular jet fuel in commercial flights. The certification of jet biofuel in Brazil, as ethanol or biodiesel, is an important step to the market’s foundation and regularization. ABRABA (Brazilian Alliance for Aviation Biofuels) is in contact with federal government and sector agencies to establish a regulatory mark for biokerosene.


Henry Gibson

This is not a natural forest any more. There is not enough land for biofuels for the consumption of the present population and industry. If CO2 is a problem use nuclear at any cost for the production of electricity and heat. All large cities can be far safer heated with hot water from nuclera reactors under the cities. Coal is then used for jet fuel.

Natural gas to liquid jet fuel and coal to liquid jet fuel can be made with the production CO2 put directly into the ocean if necessary. There is no destruction of natural forests which may put much CO2 in the air that is never recovered for decades. ..HG..


Coal shouldn't be used at all. If we need jet fuel (and I think we should be moving to liquid methane), we should make it from biomass with nuclear process heat.

Yordan Georgiev

Or directly capturing it from the atmosphere + producing hydrogen from water, which will be as well desalinated. LFTR could make it possible - robust and save design + cheap fuel would justify the additional costs ...

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