Tobacco plant to power biofuel

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Hybrid tobacco plants could provide fuel, according to Boeing, South African Airways (SAA) and biofuel supplier, SkyNRG.

Test farming of the plants, which are almost nicotine-free and called Solaris, is ongoing in South Africa with farms expectd to grow the crop in this decade. The plant’s seeds will be converted into jet fuel and later,  Boeing expects the rest of the plant to be used.

“By using hybrid tobacco, we can leverage knowledge of tobacco growers in South Africa to grow a marketable biofuel crop,” says Ian Cruickshank, an environmental specialist with SAA.

The companies see Solaris as an energy crop that farmers could grow instead of tobacco. Maarten van Dijk, chief technology officer for SkyNRG, says the company strongly believes in the potential of successfully rolling out Solaris in the Southern African region to power sustainable fuels that are also affordable. 

Last October, Boeing and SAA said they would work together to develop a sustainable aviation biofuel supply chain in Southern Africa.

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