South African Airways announced this week that one of its planes has completed its first flight using jet fuel made from the crushed seeds of a tobacco plant.
ESI Africa Power magazine reported that the airline used 6,300 litres of bio jet fuel for the one-way trip to Cape Town from Johannesburg and aims to fly 50% of its airliners with biofuels by 2022, Acting CEO Musa Zwane said.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (subscription only) added:
South Africa has seen strong growth in renewables, largely as a result of its successful Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP). The initiative launched in 2011 and targets 13GW of clean energy. By April last year, four rounds of the auction programme had been completed with 6,331MW awarded to developers. The government announced in February this year that the fifth round will comprise 1.6GW of projects.
The biofuel was produced in South Africa by Sunchem SA in partnership with Boeing, SkyNRG, and South African Airways. The consortium has been building up a domestic supply chain for the fuel over the last two and a half years as part of Project Solaris.
Biofuel produced from tobacco is particularly interesting as tobacco, traditionally a reliable cash crop in many countries, has come under pressure from socially responsible and ethical investors. New applications for the crop could mean a whole new market for squeezed producers, not just in South Africa but around the world. The success of Project Solaris bodes well for the future.