Boeing Ties Up With South African Airways To Make Jet Fuel From Tobacco Plants

In what is seen as a radical move in order to cut carbon emissions and promote green energy, one of the world’s biggest airplane manufacturers – Boeing has tied up with South African Airways to develop a new form of jet fuel. Made from a hybrid tobacco plant called Solaris, the new jet fuel is expected to be developed and used in the “next few years” according to a Fox Business report. The report adds that the new tobacco based jet fuel would be produced by alternative jet fuel manufacturer SkyNRG. Boeing and South African Airways on Wednesday issued a joint statement confirming the deal.

The joint statement added that the production of Solaris as an energy crop would enable farmers to grow a crop that would be nicotine free. Farmers could opt for the Solaris tobacco plant cultivation – instead of traditional tobacco plants and play their part in reducing carbon emissions while keeping their source of income steady. SkyNRG has in the meantime already started test farming of the Solaris tobacco plant although bio fuel production from the plants is still a few years away. The initial plan is to convert oil extracted from the seed of the Solaris tobacco plant into jet fuel. However, with further research, Boeing says that the rest of the plant too could be used to produce jet fuel.

“By using hybrid tobacco, we can leverage knowledge of tobacco growers in South Africa to grow a marketable biofuel crop without encouraging smoking,” said Ian Cruickshank, South African Airways Group Environmental Affairs Specialist. “This is another way that SAA and Boeing are driving development of sustainable biofuel while enhancing our region’s economic opportunity.

The joint statement by Boeing and South African Airways also adds that aviation fuel produced using biofuel reduces carbon emissions by a staggering 50 to 80 percent compared to traditional petroleum based jet fuel. First approved as a jet fuel in 2011 over 1500 passenger flights have already been conducted using biofuel.

Apart from the reduction of carbon emissions, the use of Solaris as a biofuel source will help farmers from several areas where tobacco is cultivated – primarily to be used in cigarettes. Countries from Africa, southern and central Europe, Asia, Oceania and Latin America will benefit from the development of the new biofuel, Boeing spokeswoman Jessica Kowal said.

[Image Via Honeywell Now]