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Boeing Sees Promise in New Tobacco

August 19, 2014 in Aviation, Biofuels by Rich Piellisch  |  No Comments

Jet Manufacturer Partners with South African Airways and SkyNRG

Boeing, South African Airways and Holland’s SkyNRG are collaborating to produce a sustainable aviation biofuel from a new type of hybrid tobacco plant known as Solaris.

‘Solaris,’ a hybrid plant, would apply farmers’ knowledge about growing tobacco to a crop yielding fuel for jet aircraft.

‘Solaris,’ a hybrid plant, would apply farmers’ knowledge about growing tobacco to a crop yielding fuel for jet aircraft.

“South Africa is leading efforts to commercialize a valuable new source of biofuel that can further reduce aviation’s environmental footprint and advance the region’s economy,” Boeing International managing director for Africa Miguel Santos said in a joint release.

SkyNRG says it’s expanding production of Solaris as an energy crop for farmers to grow instead of traditional tobacco. Test farming of the plants, which are effectively nicotine-free, is underway in South Africa with biofuel production expected from large and small farms in the next few years.

First the Seeds, then the Stems

“Initially,” states the announcement, “oil from the plant’s seeds will be converted into jet fuel. In coming years, Boeing expects emerging technologies to increase South Africa’s aviation biofuel production from the rest of the plant.”

Boeing 747 operated by South African Airways

Boeing 747 operated by South African Airways

“By using hybrid tobacco, we can leverage knowledge of tobacco growers in South Africa to grow a marketable biofuel crop without encouraging smoking,” said South African Airways group environmental affairs specialist Ian Cruickshank.

“We strongly believe in the potential of successfully rolling out Solaris in the Southern African region to power sustainable fuels that are also affordable,” said SkyNRG CTO Maarten van Dijk. His firm is also promoting biofuels for heavy trucking and marine use.

Last year Boeing and SAA said they would work together to establish a sustainable aviation biofuel supply chain in Southern Africa. The strategy is to position farmers with small plots of land to grow biofuel feedstocks that provide socioeconomic value to communities without harming food supplies, fresh water or land use.

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Source: Boeing, SAA and SkyNRG with Fleets & Fuels follow-up

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