Brazil to scale up production of jatropha-derived aviation fuel

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California-based bioenergy company SG Biofuels (SGB) has joined forces with a group including Airbus and Brazilian carrier TAM to push forward the production of jet fuel derived from the jatropha crop.

The eventual aim of the consortium is to establish 30,351Ha (75,000 acres) of jatropha plantations in the central-west region of Brazil, and to convert the oil derived from the crops into biokerosene for use by local airlines.

The fields will be planted with SGB's JMax hybrid seeds, which the company claims result in higher yield crops which are easier to harvest.

SGB will work alongside local companies Bioventures Brasil and Rio Pardo Bioenergia to select and test the highest yielding hybrids for the plantations, which will be located on underused pastureland.

"Jatropha has proven to be the most cost-effective and sustainable feedstock for renewable jet fuel, but the challenge lies in scaling production to meet the demand," said Airbus head of new energies Paul Nash. "SGB's ability to adapt hybrid varieties of jatropha specifically for the growing conditions in central-west Brazil is a significant step in generating the much-needed supply."

The consortium is being led by Brazilian biofuel specialist Jetbio and also includes aviation fuel supplier Air BP and the Inter-American Development Bank.

TAM, which aims to use the fuel produced by the consortium, has already conducted a demonstration flight using biofuel derived from locally-grown jatropha. In November, the carrier operated a 45min flight using a CFM International CFM56-5B-powered Airbus A320, running on a 50/50 blend of jatropha biofuel and traditional kerosene.