Aviation Biofuels Industry Materializing in Brazil

At a meeting on May 6 in São Paulo, Brazil, industry stakeholders formed ABRABA to spearhead development of aviation biofuels. The effort signals a growing concern for the growth of the industry within a carbon and oil constrained future.

Earlier this month, aviation companies, biofuel producers, and the sugar cane, algae, and jatropha industries came together to form the Brazilian Aviation Biofuels Alliance (Aliança Brasileira para Biocombustíveis de Aviação, or ABRABA).  As the aviation industry continues to feel the crunch from rising fuel costs and price volatility, ABRABA represents the latest multi stakeholder effort to ramp up biofuel production in the commercial aviation sector (see CAAFI).

Among the aviation companies involved: Azul Líneas Aéreas Brasileñas, Embraer – Empresa Brasileña de Aeronáutica S.A., GOL Líneas Aéreas Inteligentes, TAM Líneas Aéreas, and TRIP Líneas Aéreas.  The Brazilian Association of Jatropha Producers (Associação Brasileira dos Produtores de Pinhão Manso – ABPPM), the Sugar Cane Industry Union (UNICA), The Brazilian Aerospace Industries Association (AIAB), and the biotechnology companies Algae Biotecnología and Amyris Brasil join them.  The mission: “promote public and private initiatives to develop and certify sustainable biofuels for aviation,” reduce carbon emissions, and boost energy efficiency.

According to a statement released by the alliance, ABRABA argues:

The use of sustainable biofuels produced from biomass is key to maintaining the growth of the aviation industry within a low carbon economy.  The proven ability of Brazil to develop alternative energy sources, combined with its knowledge of aviation technologies, will result in a significant gain for the environment by minimizing the impact on economic development.

As is necessary with efforts of this complexity, the alliance will promote public and private stakeholder initiatives that seek to develop and certify sustainable biofuels for aviation.  The goal will be to spearhead favorable public policies that will lead to biofuels that are price competitive and achieve the same level of safety as petroleum derivatives.

The worldwide concern about climate change and oil supply uncertainty has led to a growing demand for renewable sources of energy.  The aviation sector has few options given its reliance on liquid forms of energy.  Further, emerging regulations around greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as well as price uncertainty around fossil fuels, are driving investment in alternatives.

While civil aviation only produces around 2% of the world’s anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), increasing demand for fuel supplies threaten to impede growth in the aviation sector.  As demonstrated by the ABRABA alliance, the use of sustainable biofuels produced from biomass is a necessary precursor to sustained growth in the sector (see Aviation Boom in Asia Intensifies Global Competition for Fuel).

Brazil’s recognized capability for developing alternative energy sources, allied with its knowledge of aeronautical technology, put ABRABA in a favorable position to spearhead the development of aviation biofuels in the world economy.  Its success will depend in large part, however, on the availability of cheap sugar, which in a land and water constrained world, may be difficult to find as countries struggle to dedicate agricultural land to energy feedstock production.

For more information on the aviation sector’s pursuit of biofuels, check out Biomass Intel’s Aviation 2.0 section.

Camelina Aviation Biofuels: a Market Opportunity and Renewable Energy Report examines the market drivers behind the shift to biofuels in the aviation sector.

Mackinnon is Editor & Publisher of Biomass Intel, a law and policy resource for sustainable energy, and co-author of Camelina Aviation Biofuels: Market Opportunity and Renewable Energy Report.

photo: Todo-Juanjo

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