For two years, Italy-based industrial research and development company Sunchem have been working on producing jet fuel using a tobacco crop project in Marble Hall, Limpopo, which has proved to be successful in the small-scale trials, says Sunchem SA MD Joost van Lier.
Sustainable jet fuel supplier SkyNRG announced its first major feedstock project in South Africa last month, based on the Solaris technology, which is a nicotine-free energy tobacco crop developed by Sunchem.
SkyNRG and Sunchem SA have teamed up to roll out Solaris in Southern Africa at large scale to help power local sustainable jet fuel production.
Both South African Airways (SAA) and US-based aircraft manufacturer Boeing will provide active support in securing further project financing and offtake.
Solaris can be used as a bio jet fuel feedstock that can help to significantly decrease cost price levels towards fossil parity and has the potential to decrease 80% of carbon dioxide emissions compared to fossil kerosene.
Next to the production of vegetable oil, the plant can be used to generate valuable animal proteins and biomass for rural electrification purposes.
Solaris aims to demonstrate its sustainability by meeting the criteria of the Roundtable of Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) standard, which has been identified by nongovernmental organisation (NGO) the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other international NGOs as the strongest sustainability guarantee on the market.
SkyNRG, Boeing and SAA anticipate growing Solaris on large-scale and for small-holder farms in the region.
Boeing, SAA and the RSB are already working together with Southern African stakeholders to position farmers with small plots of land to tap markets for biofuel feedstock that provide socioeconomic value to communities without harming food supplies, fresh water or land use.
Further, the consortium wants to raise funding in the near future to reach critical scale as soon as possible.
SkyNRG chief technology officer Maarten van Dijk says: “Business cases like these tick all the right boxes for SkyNRG and are exactly what we are looking for, as they give the opportunity to deliver affordable and sustainable fuels.”
"We have been working on this project in Marble Hall for two years, proving success in the small scale trials. We are pleased to have the support of Boeing, SAA, SkyNRG and RSB to demonstrate the project in an industrial trial on both the commercial and community land,” Van Lier adds.
"Boeing is proud to work with SkyNRG and South African Airways on a valuable project with Solaris plants, which supports sustainable aviation biofuel development, economic opportunity and public health in South Africa," says Boeing Commercial Airplanes environmental strategy and integration MD Julie Felgar.
“We are pleased to be working with partners of SkyNRG’s caliber, who are globally known as one of the leaders in the market for sustainable aviation biofuels,” highlights SAA Group environmental affairs specialist Ian Cruickshank.
RSB executive secretary Rolf Hogan comments: “We are pleased with this important initiative by a key RSB member that offers the potential to deliver both sustainable bio jet fuel and socioeconomic development.”