Airbus conducts flight fuelled by sustainable jatropha oil

Airbus has conducted the first jatropha-based biofuel flight in Latin America, using an Airbus A320.

The test flight, conducted in partnership with Brazil’s largest carrier TAM Airlines, used a 50 per cent blend of Brazilian jatropha-based bio-kerosene and conventional aviation kerosene, processed by US oil firm UOP.

The A320, powered by CFM56 engines, carried 20 people on a 45-minute flight from Rio de Janeiro.

Jatropha oil is vegetable oil produced from the seeds of the Jatropha curcas, a plant that can grow on land that is unsuitable for other forms of agriculture.

While proponents claim it can produce higher yields than other biofuel crops, its potential has yet to be fully determined because it is still being domesticated.

Airbus president and chief executive officer Tom Enders said: ‘Airbus and TAM have taken an important step towards establishing an aviation biofuel solution that is both commercially viable and sustainable, with positive impact on the environment.

‘This flight serves as evidence of the aviation industry’s commitment to advance on its self-imposed CO2 reduction targets: carbon neutral growth from 2020, and working towards a 50 per cent net CO2 reduction by 2050.’

TAM Airlines president, Libano Barroso, said: ‘This experimental flight materialises TAM’s participation in a vast project to develop a production chain for renewable biofuel, with the purpose of creating a Brazilian platform for sustainable aviation bio-kerosene.’

The technical flight was approved by Airbus and the engine provider CFM International, and was authorised by aviation authorities in Europe (the European Aviation Safety Agency, EASA) and Brazil (National Civil Aviation Agency, ANAC).

The jatropha flight follows Airbus’s experiments with Gas-to-Liquid (GTL) fuel. In October 2009 Airbus and Qatar Airways undertook the first commercial flight of 50 per cent blended GTL.