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November 22, 2011

Clean Renewable Aviation Fuel is Goal of Research in Brazil

While the focus of renewable fuel research continues to be on the ground transportation, the aviation sector is also interested in developing renewable fuels as a way to cut their carbon emissions. In June of this year, Boeing from the U.S. and Embraer from Brazil, in conjunction with the Inter-American Development Bank, jointly funded a research project in the state of Sao Paulo to develop a renewable fuel based on sugarcane. Four airline companies in Brazil including TAM, Gol, Azul, and Trip, are collaborating on the research.

The International Air Transport Association has set a goal of cutting their carbon emission in half by the year 2050 (based on 2005 emissions) and they feel renewable fuels will be critical in reaching that goal. Alfred Szwarc, an emission expert with UNICA (The Union of Sugarcane Industries in southern Brazil), feels that kerosene made from sugarcane could help the industry achieve their goal.

Szwarc believes that Brazil has the potential to become a primary source of this new aviation biofuel because the country has the expertise, the climate, and large areas of arable land that would be needed to produce large quantities of the fuel.

The president of Boeing Brasil, Donna Hrinak, and the vice president for engineering and technology at Embraer, Mauro Kern, agrees that the time is right for the development of clean and renewable aviation fuel. Even though these two airline manufactures are competitors, they have decided to work together to develop an alternative to petroleum based fuel.

The International Air Transportation Association wants the industry to stop increasing carbon emissions by the year 2020 and then to start cutting the emissions. Data from Embraer indicate that the aviation sector is responsible for 3% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

This is obviously a very long term goal for the airline industry. Currently Brazil does not have the capacity to produce large quantities of the renewable fuel, but industry officials in Brazil are confident that they will be able to meet the needs of the airline industry in the decades to come.