Sao Paulo: US commercial aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co and its Brazilian counterpart Embraer have joined forces with a Brazilian state run scientific research foundation to develop ways and means to expand the use of biofuels for jet engines.
Brazil is one of the world's largest producers of sugarcane, the second largest producer of ethanol and its largest exporter. It has vast experience on developing alternate fuels from renewable resources such as sugarcane.
The two aerospace companies signed an agreement on Wednesday with the Sao Paulo State Scientific Research Federation (Fapesp), to construct a research centre in Brazil that will study the infrastructure, transport and global marketing of bio-kerosene.
"This is not just a gesture. This is a serious investigation in what bio-fuels will be viable for this industry going forward," Boeing International chief executive Shep Hill said. "We chose Brazil because of its strengths in biomass and this type of fuel stock."
Brazil is also a major biodiesel producer from vegetable oils.
Hill added, however, that Boeing was also involved in algae-based biofuel research in the Middle East and in jatropha-based research in Asia.
He stressed that biofuels had met all of the technical requirements of the highly demanding aviation fuel industry and jet engine makers, including GE , Rolls-Royce and others.
"We don't want feedstocks that are also food crops and we are only interested in developing a completely drop-in biofuel alternatives. We don't want any modifications required to the engines or planes," he said.
Hill said that Boeing did not plan to market any bio-kerosene in the future but it was interested in forming partners that would carry out that market function of buying and selling the green aviation fuel.
The partnership reflects the commercial airline sector's interest in diversifying its fuel supply in the roughly 60 billion gallon-a-year aviation kerosene market, while reducing its carbon footprint as well.
"Actually, aviation only accounts for 2 per cent of all carbon emission from the transport around the world, but we still want to lower that imprint, as citizens of the world. But especially, since there are people who blame the industry for more than that (share)," Hill said.
The American Society for Testing and Materials, which serves as a scientific standards body for the airline industry, has approved the use of up to 50 per cent bio-kerosene in aviation.
The agreement between Boeing, Embraer and Fapesp will start with a nine-month gap study or road map on all of the potential feedstocks and their large-scale commercial challenges and advantages.
"With all of the technical specifications of the biofuel resolved, the main question we will be looking to answer is 'what is the price point of the biofuel versus conventional aviation fuel?'" Hill said. "Demand is not a problem. It far outstrips supply at this point."