Brazilian carrier Azul aims to complete a demonstration flight with alternative fuels derived from sugar cane by 2012.

Azul is teaming with California renewable fuels and chemicals producer Amyris Biotechnologies, Embraer and GE Aviation to prepare an Embraer 190 or195 for the trial.

Azul chief operating officer Miguel Dau says it is likely to settle on a 20% blend of the sugar cane-derived fuel for the demonstration, but is considering mixes between 20% and 50%. One GE CF34-10E engine will operate with the test blend while 100% petroleum jet fuel will power the other engine.

Amyris, which recently secured US patent protection for its renewable drop-in jet fuel, aims to commercialise some its renewable products as early as 2011.

This year the firm's Amyris Brasil subsidiary has opened one renewable products demonstration facility and one pilot facility in Campinas, after Amyris opened a pilot plant in Emeryville, California last year.

Amyris says its alternative jet fuel is made from existing sugar cane feedstock in a process known as synthetic biology, which alters the metabolic pathways of micro-organisms such as yeast to engineer "living factories" that transform sugar into a range of renewable products including jet fuel.

Southwest Research Institute, the US Air Force Research Laboratory, GE Aviation and others have already conducted testing of the fuel, Amyris adds.

In addition, the company's renewable jet fuel development programme receives funding from the Brazilian government.

Separately, Brazilian carrier Gol has joined Air France, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Cargolux, Gulf Air, Japan Airlines, KLM, SAS, Virgin Atlantic and Qantas in the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group to support research into algae and the Jatropha curcas plant as sustainable fuel sources.

The group's members are looking for biofuels with equal or superior performance to kerosene and reduced carbon dioxide emissions produced from renewable sources that minimise effects on biodiversity and do not compete with food or drinking water production.

Source: Flight International