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TAM plans Jatropha crop after successful biofuel flight test

Brazil's TAM plans to grow a crop of Jatropha curcas for the purpose of aviation biofuel testing after successfully completing a demonstration flight using biofuel produced from the oil of the Brazilian vegetable biomass.

With technical approval from Airbus and CFM International, and authorization from EASA and Brazil's National Civil Aviation Agency, a TAM CFM56-5B-powered Airbus A320 took off yesterday afternoon from Rio de Janeiro International airport and flew in Brazilian air space over the Atlantic Ocean for 45min.

In addition to the pilots, 18 other passengers, including technicians and executives from TAM and Airbus, were on the flight.

TAM says the trial was the first successful experimental flight in Latin America using biofuel produced from the oil of the Jatropha curcas.

To ensure the availability of the biofuel for the flight, TAM purchased seeds from Jatropha curcas producers in the North, Southeast and Central-West regions of Brazil, and arranged for its conversion into semi-refined oil which was then exported to the US where UOP, a Honeywell group company, processed the Jatropha curcas oil into bio-kerosene and mixed it at a proportion of 50/50 with conventional aviation kerosene.

The next step in the carrier's biofuels project is to implement and establish a crop of Jatropha curcas, in reduced scale, at the carrier's technological centre in Sao Carlos, located in the countryside in the state of Sao Paulo.

"The goal of this unit will be to conduct technical and economic feasibility studies to start the implementation of an integrated value chain in Brazil, with the aim of producing biofuel based on Jatropha curcas oil, from the production of raw material to the distribution of bio-kerosene," says TAM president Libano Barroso.

Jatropha curcas does not compete with the food chain because it is not suitable for human or animal consumption, and can be planted alongside pastures and food crops.

Studies conducted by the Michigan Technological University along with UOP have demonstrated that aviation biofuels made from Jatropha curcas enable a reduction of between 65% and 80% in carbon emissions in relation to petroleum-derived aviation kerosene, according to TAM.

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