Tobacco Hybrid May Be a Source for Aviation Biofuel

Tobacco Hybrid May Be a Source for Aviation Biofuel

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When you hear the word “tobacco” you may not think “clean.” But, after just one flight, you may soon.


SkyNRG, an aviation fuel company, has partnered with Boeing and South African Airways to make clean fuel from Solaris, a hybrid tobacco plant.


Aviation is responsible for 12 percent of all the CO2 emissions that come from transport sources, according to the Air Transport Action Group. If commercial aviation were to use biofuel for just 6 percent of its whole fuel supply by 2020, aviation’s overall carbon footprint would be reduced by 5 percent. That gives this whole tobacco idea a real leg-up.


By expanding the production of Solaris SkyNRG says that the plant is effectively nicotine free and not only could be a cleaner source of jet fuel, but could also help the regional economy in South Africa, and provide a crop for farmers to grow without disrupting the food supply chain.


Testing of the tobacco plant is still underway, but Boeing says they anticipate “emerging technologies” will allow them to make this clean dream a reality.


“By using hybrid tobacco, we can leverage knowledge of tobacco growers in South Africa to grow a marketable biofuel crop without encouraging smoking,” said Ian Cruickshank, South African Airways Group Environmental Affairs Specialist. “This is another way that SAA and Boeing are driving development of sustainable biofuel while enhancing our region’s economic opportunity.”


When produced sustainably, according to Boeing, aviation biofuel can reduce carbon emissions by up to 80 percent.


Though biofuel is currently being used to fly the skies, only 1,500 flights have used biofuel since it was approved in 2011. That means there’re a lot of miles to catch up on, and these guys are hoping it’s Solaris that may help them get there.


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FEATURED PHOTO: Josh Beasley/Flickr


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