Brazil’s largest airline TAM announced on 23 November 2010 that it had suc­cessfully conducted what it called the first experimental flight in Latin America using aviation biofuel. TAM said on YouTube that the 45-minute flight of an Airbus A320 using biofuel made from the seeds of J. curcas took place on 22 November 2010 off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. The statement said the biofuel was mixed half and half with conventional aviation kerosene. The experimental flight was part of a joint project between TAM, Airbus, and engine manufacturer CFM International. CFM International is a joint venture of the US-based General Electric Co. and France’s Snecma. TAM stated that cultivating more Jatropha in Brazil does not threaten food production or supply because is not edible, and can be planted along pastures and food crops. TAM also claimed that studies have shown biofuels made from Jatropha produce 65-80% less carbon emissions than petroleum-derived aviation kerosene.

The company wants to honor its social and sustainability commitments through such an initiative. Brazilian raw materials are used in the production of this bio­fuel, resulting in significant economic and social gains. A source of aviation bio­kerosene, the biomass is 100% Brazilian, and is the result of family agricultural projects and large farms in the hinterlands of Brazil that have been devoted to the pioneering cultivation of the Jatropha plant.

Through the Brazilian Association of Jatropha Producers (Associacao Brasileira de Produtores de Pinhao Manso (ABPPM); www. abppm. com. br), TAM acquired Jatropha seeds from producers in the north, southeast, and center west of Brazil. These were then transformed into a semirefined oil that was shipped to the United States, where the Jatropha oil was processed into biokerosene that was mixed with conventional aviation kerosene in a 50/50 mix.

Through a joint effort with ABPPM, TAM intends to study the commercial — scale development of sustainable Jatropha production, with an eye to transforming it into aviation biofuel. The work carried out by ABPPM shows that there are currently 60 000 hectares of land in Brazil with Jatropha plantations. Considering

the natural resources and the favorable climatic conditions in Brazil, a large amount of degraded pastures could be recovered with the plant. To be able to attain commercial-scale output, estimates suggest that it would be necessary to expand the cultivated surface to about 1 million hectares — sufficient to service approximately 20% of domestic consumption and demand. I think this target is very well achievable, compared to sugarcane, where 9 million hectares have been planted.

Different plants can be the right feedstock for different parts of the world. Any solution should be sustainable with no impact on people, land, food, or water and should involve short logistical distances. It should also create new jobs for the local population. Thus, planting Jatropha locally in Brazil is a perfect solution for that country.

The cultivation and harvest of Jatropha, done in a responsible fashion, adds social and economic value to local communities, and does not compete with the production of food or potable water sources, complying with the principles set out by the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG; www. safug. org), a group TAM joined on 11 November 2009. The group is made up of large international airlines whose aim it is to speed up the development and marketing of new sus­tainable fuels for the aviation industry.

Beyond the requirements of SAFUG, TAM also follows the concepts and criteria established by Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB) — a renowned interna­tional organization that is acknowledged for its technical and scientific prestige. RSB’s criteria include best production practices, and the use and transportation of biofuels with regard to social, environmental, and economic responsibilities (see Chapter 7).


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