Solaris biofuel crop in Limpopo certified as sustainable

18th September 2015

By: Keith Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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The Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) has certified the Solaris biofuel feedstock plant grown in South Africa and used to produce jet biofuel. Solaris is a variety of the tobacco plant, but without any nicotine and not developed through modern genetic modification processes. “Project Solaris has demonstrated that it can deliver sustainability on the ground in line with the RSB’s global standard,” stated RSB Executive Director Rolf Hogan.

The plants are being grown in the country’s Limpopo province, in a programme designated Project Solaris, which is a joint endeavour between specialist international companies Sunchem and SkyNRG, giant aerospace group Boeing and local flag-carrier South African Airways (SAA). The certification, he said, “is the result of a serious commitment to working with local stakeholders, rural development and reducing greenhouse gases while safeguarding the the Limpopo’s unique natural environment.”

Boeing is a major supporter of Solaris biotechnology around the world. SAA is the actual user of the biofuel produced from the Solaris plants in Limpopo. Sunchem Holdings is the company which developed the Solaris plant, which, in addition to oil (from its seeds) for biofuels can also be used to produce animal cake (also from seeds) and dry or wet biomass. SkyNRG produces sustainable jet fuel and is the world market leader in this sector.

The RSB was brought into Project Solaris from its very beginning in order that its standards would be included in the programme’s protocols for development and scaling up, in order to ensure that certification could be obtained. “The RSB certificate is a key factor for our company and development process,” explained Sunchem Holding CEO Sergio Tommasini. “With RSB we proved our Solaris technology under different aspects respecting sustainability criteria. Thanks to all partner efforts, we earned this important certificate. RSB believed in our technology and gave us the right advice to improve it during our scale-up programme.”

“We applaud South African Airways and the South African government for ensuring the sustainability of their emerging aviation biofuel supply chain as it is being developed,” affirmed Boeing International MD for Africa Miguel Santos. “This milestone marks a very significant step forward in ensuring positive economic, social and environmental outcomes for aviation and the planet.”

“SAA is a proud member of the RSB and subscribes to the environmental and social sustainability principles enshrined in the RSB standard,” pointed out SAA Group Environmental Specialist Ian Cruickshank. “This certification ensures that future fuels contribute to reductions in CO2 and are environmentally sustainable and contribute social and economic benefits to our rural economy where it is needed most.”

“Developing a biofuel crop in South Africa’s ‘breadbasket’ province has of course drawn us into the centre of the food vs fuel debate,” noted Sunchem South Africa MD Joost van Lier. “Having to undergo a systematic process of evaluating the social and environmental ramifications of this development as prescribed by the RSB has allowed us to feel confident in promoting Solaris, not only as a financially viable crop for farmers in the region, but also one that will not affect food security or lead to environmental degradation.”

“SkyNRG, as one of the main founders of Project Solaris, believes that the RSB standard should play a central role in the aviation sector’s efforts to develop truly sustainable jet fuel supply, meeting environmental and social safeguards,” asserted company CEO Maarten van Dijk. “By receiving RSB certification, Project Solaris is achieving an important milestone for itself and for the aviation industry as a whole.” An environmentally and socially sustainable regional jet biofuel supply chain is being established. It is also stimulating economic and rural development in Limpopo.


Solaris is a variety of the tobacco plant, but without any nicotine

The Solaris programme is stimulating economic and rural development in Limpopo

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor



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