Boeing, South African Airways to turn new tobacco plant into jet fuel

  • 20-Aug-2014 03:39 EDT
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The hybrid Solaris plant was developed as an energy-producing crop that farmers could grow instead of traditional tobacco. A test farm for aviation biofuel production in Limpopo province, South Africa, is shown.

Boeing, South African Airways (SAA), and SkyNRG are collaborating to make sustainable aviation biofuel from a new type of tobacco plant. This initiative broadens cooperation between Boeing and SAA to develop renewable jet fuel in ways that support South Africa's goals for public health as well as economic and rural development. SkyNRG is expanding production of the hybrid plant known as Solaris as an energy crop that farmers could grow instead of traditional tobacco. Test farming of the plants, which are effectively nicotine-free, is under way in South Africa with biofuel production expected from large and small farms in the next few years. Initially, 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.

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