Known as project solaris, a project involving the use of “mutagenized tobacco” for aviation fuel, which is supported by South African Airways, Boeing and SkyNRG and other participating partners.
The Member organizations of RSB, an independent, global multistakeholder coalition are working to promote the sustainability of biomaterials, include Boeing, Airbus and the international Air Transport Association
This South Africa tobacco venture is just one part of Boeing’s transition to biofuel. Earlier this year, the company announced a biofuel R&D partnership in Brazil, which also resonates the regionalized approach to biofuel production.
These partners launched a program in March 2014 to expand opportunities for smallholder farmers in Southern Africa to grow crops that produce sustainable fuels. This program is set up to help farmers with small plots of land to certify their product and gain access to markets for sustainable biofuels and biomaterials. Project Solaris is a pilot for this small holder program.
Italian research and development enterprise Sunchem Holding owns the patent for “energy tobacco”, under which Solaris is the first seed to have been developed. The patent has been granted in 110 countries.
Sunchem Holding chief executive officer Sergio Tommasini said, the company was also exploring options for production in Malawi and Zimbabwe.
“The project has the potential to leverage the knowledge and experience of established traditional tobacco farmers, although it is not necessary to have the same climate conditions because Solaris can be cultivated under various conditions”, said Tommasini.
SAA said it was a proud member of the RSB. “SAA is a proud member of the RSB and subscribes to the environmental and social sustainability principles enshrined in the RSB standard. This certification ensures that future fuels contribute to reductions in CO₂ and are environmentally sustainable and contribute social and economic benefits to our rural economy where it is needed most,” the group’s environmental specialist Ian Cruickshank said.
Boeing is a premium sponsor and promoter of the Solaris technology worldwide. The company’s managing director for Africa, J. Miguel Santos says,
“We applaud South African Airways and the South African government for ensuring the sustainability of their emerging aviation biofuel supply chain as it is being developed. This milestone marks a very significant step forward in ensuring positive economic, social and environmental outcomes for aviation and the planet.”