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October 28, 2013

Brazil Airline Conducts First Commercial Flight using Bio-kerosene

Last week, the Brazilian airline Gol Linhas Aereas conducted the first commercial flight in the country utilizing a new fuel - renewable bio-kerosene. The flight was between the Congonhas Airport in downtown Sao Paulo and the international airport in Brasilia. Five years in the making, this new bio-kerosene has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from commercial airplanes by 80%. During the World Cup, which will be held in Brazil in 2014, Gol is expected to operate 200 routes in Brazil using the new fuel.

Bio-kerosene uses a mixture of vegetable oils and kerosene, which is very similar to biodiesel fuel. The fuel is not necessarily cheaper to produce than the regular jet fuel. Its biggest advantage is a significant reduction in pollution and it advances Brazil's stated goal of greatly reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the country. According to the Secretary of Civil Aviation in Brazil, Moreira Franco, the goal of the research was not to reduce the cost of the jet fuel which represents 43% of the cost of tickets, but to reduce pollution and make the production of jet fuel more sustainable.

The technology for bio-kerosene for jet fuel was developed by Amyris an American company with its affiliate in Brazil. The first test flight using the new fuel was conducted last year and the new fuel does not require any adjustments on the part of the jet engine. Much of the research was to insure that the new fuel met the rigid standards of the aviation industry and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM International).

Bio-kerosene joins a growing list of renewable fuels including alcohol for automobiles and bio-diesel for diesel engines. Over 90% of the new cars produced in Brazil have flex-fuel engines that can utilize either gasoline or alcohol or any combination of the two fuels. These bio fuels are not necessarily cheaper than their petroleum counterparts, but they greatly reduce the amount of pollution and they are sustainable.