South America’s largest airline, the Brazilian TAM, has announced that it will make a non-commerial demonstration flight in the second half of this year using a mixture of aviation biofuel produced using jatropha oil. The aircraft used for the demo will be an Airbus A320 equipped with CFM56-5B engines manufactured by CFM International. Studies suggest that carbon emissions could be cut by 80%.
“We have put our best efforts in to using Brazilian raw materials in the production of this biofuel, resulting in significant economic and social gains,” declared TAM’s CEO, Libano Barroso at the same time as emphasising that the project is inline with TAM’s social and sustainability commitments.
In order to guarantee the supply of biofuel for the demo flight, TAM has already acquired jatropha seeds from producers in the north, southeast and centre west of Brazil through the Brazilian Association of Jatropha Producers (ABPPM). These have then been transformed into a semi-refined oil that was shipped to the US where UOP, a Honeywell company, transformed the jatropha oil into bio-kerosene which was mixed with conventional aviation kerosene in a 50-50 mix.
The demonstration flight will be the first in Latin America to use this innovative combination of the type of plane and engine flying with aviation bio-kerosene produced from jatropha, and will be closely monitored by the appropriate aviation authorities.
TAM is working with the ABPPM to identify ways to produce jatropha in a sustainable manner in Brazil at a commercial scale. According to the ABPPM, there are currently 60,000 hectares of land occupied by jatropha plantations across the country. To achieve commercial scale, it is estimated that it would be necessary to extend the surface area to about 1 million hectares, enough to supply about 20% of national demand.
Up to 80% reduction in emissions
According to Michigan Technological University, which has performed Well-to-wake Life Cycle Assessments in conjunction with Honeywell’s UOP, aviation biofuels made from jatropha and using the UOP Green Jet Fuel process, can achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of between 65 and 80% compared to petroleum-derived jet fuel.
Renewable Energy Magazine, 2010-05-04.