Wed 5 May 2010 – TAM has announced it will carry out a demonstration flight during the second half of 2010 using a 50/50 blend of jatropha and conventional jet fuel onboard a CFM-powered Airbus A320 belonging to the airline. This will be Latin America’s first commercial aircraft biofuel flight and the jatropha has already been sourced from family agricultural projects and large farms in various parts of Brazil. TAM says the cultivation and harvesting of the jatropha seeds have complied with the non-competing with potable water and food production principles of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG), which it joined last November.
The seeds were acquired through the Brazilian Association of Jatropha Producers (ABPPM) and converted to semi-refined oil before being exported to the United States, where it has been processed into a bio-kerosene blend by Honeywell’s UOP.
A well-to-wake life-cycle assessment carried out by Michigan Technological University in conjunction with UOP found that aviation biofuels produced from jatropha using the UOP Green Jet Fuel process can achieve a greenhouse gas emissions reduction of between 65 and 80 percent relative to petroleum-derived jet fuel.
Through a joint effort with ABPPM, TAM intends to develop the sustainable production of jatropha-based jet biofuel on a commercial scale. According to surveys carried out by ABPPM, there are currently 60,000 hectares of land in Brazil with jatropha plantations and it is estimated that it would be necessary to expand this area to around one million hectares to attain a commercial scale sufficient to meet 20% of domestic consumption. TAM believes that with the available natural resources and favourable climatic conditions, a large area of degraded pasture land could be recovered to meet demand.
The airline says it will follow the criteria established by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels and adhere to best production practices as well as focus on environmental, social and economic responsibilities.
According to José Maluf, TAM’s Supply Chain and International Contracts Director, the flight will be carried out in cooperation with Airbus and engine manufacturer CFM International.
Paul Nash, Head of New Energies at Airbus, said: “Airbus is exploring all types of alternative fuels because we believe there will be different solutions for different parts of the world. Any solution should be commercially viable and sustainable with no impact on people, land, food or water, and should involve local jobs for local people. We call this the value chain, and this TAM initiative with Airbus is another step in this direction.”
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