Boeing and SAA, along with partners SkyNRG and Sunchem SA, also officially launched Project Solaris, their collaborative
effort to develop an aviation biofuel supply chain with a nicotine-free tobacco plant called Solaris. In Limpopo province,
company representatives and industry stakeholders
visited commercial and community farms where 123 acres (50 hectares) of Solaris have been planted.
Oil from the plant’s seeds may be converted into bio-jet fuel as early as next year, with a test flight
by SAA as soon as practicable.
“SAA continues to work towards becoming the most environmentally sustainable airline in the world and is
committed to a better way of conducting business,” said Ian Cruickshank, Environmental Affairs Specialist,
SAA Group on Dec 9. “The impact that the biofuel program will have on South Africans is astounding: thousands
of jobs mostly in rural areas, new skills and technology, energy security and stability and macro-economic
benefits to South Africa,
and of course, a massive reduction in the amount of CO2 that is emitted into our atmosphere.”
“It is very exciting to see early progress in South Africa towards developing sustainable aviation
biofuel from energy-producing tobacco plants,” said J. Miguel Santos, managing director for Africa, Boeing
International. “Boeing strongly believes that our aviation biofuel collaboration with South African Airways
will benefit the environment and public health while providing new economic opportunities for South Africa’s
small farmers. This project also positions our valued airline customer to gain a
long-term, viable domestic fuel supply and improve South Africa’s national balance of payments.”
The farm visits followed the announcement in August that Boeing, SAA and SkyNRG were collaborating to
make aviation biofuel from the Solaris plant, which was developed and patented by Sunchem Holding. If the
test farming in Limpopo is successful, the project will be expanded in South Africa and potentially to other
countries. In coming years, emerging technologies are
expected to increase aviation biofuel production from the plant’s leaves and stems.
Sustainable aviation biofuel made from Solaris plants can reduce lifecycle carbon emissions by 50 to 75 percent,
ensuring it meets the sustainability threshold set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB). Airlines have
conducted more than 1,600 passenger
flights using aviation biofuel since the fuel was approved for commercial use in 2011.
Boeing is the industry leader in global efforts to develop and commercialize sustainable aviation biofuel.
In addition to its collaboration in Southern Africa, Boeing has active biofuel development projects in
the United States, Middle East, Europe, China, Japan, Southeast Asia, Brazil and Australia.