21 May 2015 – South African farmers will be harvesting newly developed tobacco for use as a potential aviation biofuel source in a project called Solaris. Boeing, SAA, SkyNRG, and Sunchem SA formed a collaboration to launch Project Solaris to develop a nicotine-free tobacco plant for the fuel source. Initially, the tobacco seeds will be used to produce oil for conversion to jet fuel, and ultimately, the biomass in the stems and leaves may see use in cellulosic conversion processes.
Ian Cruickshank, Environmental Affairs Specialists of the SAA Group sees the initiative as providing jobs to thousands of South Africans, energy security to South Africa, and reduction in the carbon footprint from a reduction of carbon dioxide in the transition. If the project is a success for the test farming occurring in Limpopo, South Africa, Project Solaris is expected to expand to other countries in Africa. Read Boeing’s press release on the first harvest of the nicotine-free, energy-rich tobacco plant in South Africa’s Limpopo province here.