Airbus claims the biofuel could help reduce the aviation sector’s overall carbon footprint by up to 80 percent.
Following last year’s Aviation & Environment Summit, the aviation industry committed to self-imposed CO2 reduction targets of neutral growth from 2020, working towards a 50 percent net CO2 reduction on 2005 emissions by 2050. Although the energy use – and, as a result, greenhouse gas emissions – of the aviation sector (9 percent of the transportation sector in 2007*) is far overshadowed by the energy use of passenger vehicles, such as cars and light-duty trucks (60.4 percent*), such a reduction would have a major impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
The biofuel used to power the TAM Airlines A320 was a 50 percent blend of conventional aviation kerosene and locally-sourced Brazilian Jatropha-based bio-kerosene. Jatropha is seen as one of the best candidates for biofuel production as it is drought and pest resistant and produces seeds containing 27–40 percent oil, averaging 34.4 percent. As it contains several toxic compounds, it also avoids the controversy surrounding the use of traditional food crops for the production of biofuel.
The A320, powered by CFM56 engines, took off from Galeão Antonio Carlos Jobim International airport in Rio de Janeiro and performed a 45-minute flight before returning to its point of origin. The technical flight was approved by Airbus, the engine provider CFM International, and was authorized by aviation authorities in Europe (the European Aviation Safety Agency - EASA), and Brazil (National Civil Aviation Agency - ANAC).