Embraer postpones biofuel demo

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Brazilian manufacturer Embraer has postponed its plans to stage a biofuel demonstration, as the test would have duplicated research already performed by Boeing and Virgin Atlantic Airways.

Late last year Embraer said that during 2008 it was planning to demonstrate the feasibility of a biofuel, using native plants as the fuel source.

But a demonstration performed by a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400 in February, which used a babassu oil and coconut oil-based biofuel, has eliminated the need for Embraer’s trial. Babassu is derived from a palm tree found in Embraer’s homeland, Brazil.

Speaking at a pre-Farnborough air show media briefing in Paris, Embraer director for environmental strategies and technologies Graciliano Campos said: “Our expectations have been pushed back a little further. We had plans of flying very shortly with an aircraft powered by biofuel.

“We were working with the same, or a very similar, blend of biofuel that was used by the Boeing/Virgin demonstrator. We had scheduled to fly a jet powered by biofuel. Because of that, the programme and our plans have been pushed back and we don’t have an alternative date right now.

“We [now] don’t know when it will happen or which aircraft. We don’t want to do it just for the sake of doing it. The important thing is bringing the industry forward.”

He says Embraer has five different biofuel projects underway, including one using jathropa – a plant which grows abundantly on poor terrain which is unsuitable for agriculture. Air New Zealand has just revealed that it plans to trial a jatropha-based biofuel later this year.

“We are working on a number [of biofuels] and are very confident that those projects will come to fruition in the near-future,” says Campos.

Algae has been widely tipped as the holy grail of biofuel, but Campos believes other options may be ready sooner. He says: “There is a schedule of availability of biofuels and there are some second generation biofuels, not based on algae, which will have technology ready before algae.”

Detailing the process, Campos says any potential biofuel has to be tested and approved by the fuel company. It is then subjected to follow-on testing by an engine manufacturer on a test bed, before the results are verified and advanced via the flight test process.


Source: flightglobal.com's sister premium news site Air Transport Intelligence news