Boeing, Embraer To Open Biofuels Research Center

In an effort to meet its goal of 1 percent biofuel use in commercial jetliners by 2016, Boeing is reaching out to the global leader of biofuel usage, Brazil.

On Monday, Boeing and its competitor Embraer, a Brazilian aircraft builder, announced plans to open a joint research center in Sao Paulo, Brazil to develop an aviation biofuel industry.

“Boeing is working aggressively around the world to expand the supply of sustainable aviation biofuel and reduce aviation’s carbon emissions,” said Julie Felgar, managing director of environmental strategy and integration for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, in a statement. “With our joint biofuel research center, Boeing and Embraer are making a strong commitment toward a successful, sustainable aviation biofuel industry in Brazil.”

In Brazil, most biofuel is made from sugar cane waste, and the country produced 7 million gallons of fuel-grade ethanol in 2012, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The new Brazilian biofuels pact follows a series of other agreements between Boeing and organizations or governments around the world, each focused on developing biofuels suited to that region’s climate or agricultural conditions. These include pacts in South Africa, China, the Middle East and the United States.

“Biofuel takes global development to create a new sustainable fuel for aviation,” Boeing spokeswoman Jessica Kowal said. “The role that Boeing plays globally is to partner with others, to find regional solutions, regional ways to produce biofuel.”

The arrangement also will include further work with GOL, a Brazilian airline. That airline already has conducted biofuels tests, and plans more flights this summer. Boeing has “dozens” of people working on biofuels technologies around the world, Kowal said, although she declined to disclose how many of those are in Washington.

The Federal Aviation Administration has designated Washington as a biofuels center of excellence, with Boeing, the University of Washington, Washington State University and others working together to develop biofuels.

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