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.