Two-year study led by Yale School of Forestry and
Environmental Studies shows potential for aviation jet fuel use,
greenhouse gas reductions-- Provides scientific guidance for Mexico
and Brazil aviation biofuel efforts
SEATTLE, March 31, 2011 - Boeing has released
research conducted by Yale University's School of Environmental
Studies showing significant potential for sustainable aviation fuel
based on jatropha-curcas, an oil-producing, non-edible plant.
The study shows that, if cultivated properly, jatropha can
deliver strong environmental and socioeconomic benefits in Latin
America and greenhouse gas reductions of up to 60 percent when
compared to petroleum-based jet fuel.
The Yale study, conducted from 2008-2010 and funded by Boeing,
used sustainability criteria developed by the Roundtable on
Sustainable Biofuels to assess actual farming conditions in Latin
Unlike previous studies, which used theoretical inputs, the Yale
team conducted extensive interviews with jatropha farmers and used
field measurements to develop the first comprehensive
sustainability analysis of actual projects. Boeing is supporting
the current Mexican Government roadmap assessment on aviation
biofuels, "Plan de Vuelo," and this data will contribute to that
The peer-reviewed data is applicable to similar conditions in
Mexico and also provides guidance to Brazilian efforts to develop a
commercial aviation biofuels market.
Studied jatropha projects included actual small- to large-scale
farms ranging from under ten hectares to more than several thousand
hectares. Yale researchers used a robust analytical framework to
compare land conditions before and after jatropha cultivation.
A key study finding identifies prior land-use as the most
important factor driving greenhouse gas benefits of a jatropha jet
fuel. If Jatropha is planted on land previously covered in forest,
shrubs or native grasses, benefits may disappear altogether.
If the crop is planted on land that was already cleared or
degraded, then additional carbon is stored and emissions reductions
can exceed the 60 percent baseline. This research highlights that
developers should pay particular attention to prior land use when
deciding where to locate jatropha projects.
A second important finding is that early jatropha projects
suffered from a lack of developed seed strains, which led to poor
crop yields. Advancing jatropha seed technology through private and
government research is critical and many Latin American countries
are now engaged in supporting such technology development.
"Our team identified dozens of jatropha farmers willing to
participate in our research, despite some challenges many
encountered with this new crop. For most, this was the first time
anyone had studied their efforts," said Dr. Rob Bailis, assistant
professor, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
"Working with them allowed us to collect detailed data
needed to build a comprehensive picture including both positive and
negative aspects. Research like this is vital to helping developers
to deliver better social, environmental, and economic
sustainability outcomes from jatropha cultivation."
"The invaluable insights provided by this study will help our
airline customers to better understand the sustainability of this
potential jet fuel source, while also providing solid scientific
data to governments and environmental organizations throughout the
region," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes Director of Environmental
Strategy Michael Hurd.
Sustainable biofuel development is a key element of aviation's
strategy for lowering carbon emissions. A link to the Yale research
abstract can be found here. Additional information on
Boeing's biofuel initiatives can be found here.