Boeing, South African Airways to develop jet fuel from tobacco

Source: By CHAD GARLAND, Los Angeles Times • Posted: Thursday, August 7, 2014

Boeing Co. is teaming with South African Airways and Dutch aviation biofuels company SkyNRG to develop jet fuel from a new type of tobacco plant.

The companies announced Wednesday the effort to develop the aviation biofuel, which they said would reduce pollution while bolstering the rural economy in South Africa.

Biofuels derived from organic sources such as plant and algae could reduce carbon emissions by as much as 80% compared with petroleum-based fuels, the companies said.

“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.

The agreement comes as the airline industry seeks to reduce its global carbon footprint.

The International Air Transport Assn., the trade group representing more than 240 of the world’s airlines, has said the industry contributes about 2% of the total man-made carbon-dioxide emissions globally.

In October, Boeing and South African Airways committed to developing a supply chain for sustainable aviation biofuels in southern Africa that would boost the economies of rural areas without harming food or water supplies. The Chicago aircraft maker said it is also working with partners in the United States, Europe, China and several other countries to develop biofuels that could be used in aviation.

Airlines have conducted more than 1,500 passenger flights using biofuel since 2011, the companies said.