First jatropha-based biofuel flight ready for take-off

Interjet and Airbus are scheduled to conduct the first jatropha-based biofuel flight in Mexico later today using an Airbus A320 aircraft.

The biofuel is made from locally sourced jatropha, an oil-producing, non-edible plant harvested in the southern state of Chiapas. According to Airbus, the aim of the demonstration flight and the project is to speed up the commercialisation of aviation biofuel in Mexico.

The A320 flight is planned from Mexico City’s International Airport to Angel Albino Corzo of Tuxtla Gutierrez airport in Chiapas, with one of the two CFM engines using 30 per cent biofuel.

‘The test flight is the realisation of a two-year ambition for Interjet to develop a production chain for renewable biofuel, with the purpose of creating a Mexican platform for sustainable aviation bio-kerosene,’ said Miguel Aleman, Interjet president.

‘Airbus, Interjet and the many stakeholders… have taken an important step towards establishing an aviation biofuel solution that is both commercially viable and environmentally sustainable,’ said Paul Nash, Airbus head of new energies. ‘This flight serves as evidence that our sector is serious about its commitment to achieve carbon-neutral growth by 2020, and a 50 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 compared with 2005 levels.’

The project is being supported by Mexico’s Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (SCT), Airports and Auxiliary Services (ASA), the state of Chiapas, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), CFM and Airbus to ensure the biofuel meets all specifications for flight without any changes to the aircraft or engines.

CO2 lifecycle studies show that jatropha has the potential to reduce the overall CO2 footprint by up to 80 per cent over standard aviation kerosene.

In separate news, Boeing has released research conducted by Yale University’s School of Environmental Studies showing significant potential for sustainable aviation fuel based on the jatropha plant.

The study shows that, if cultivated properly, jatropha can deliver strong environmental and socioeconomic benefits in Latin America and greenhouse gas reductions of up to 60 per cent when compared with petroleum-based jet fuel.

The Yale study, conducted from 2008–2010 and funded by Boeing, used sustainability criteria developed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels to assess actual farming conditions in Latin America.