Boeing partners with South Africa for new biofuel source

A Boeing airplane, run on tobacco? This surprising and innovative concept is going to be put to the test, as Boeing announced yesterday a new partnership with South African Airways and SkyNRG, a sustainable jet fuel maker, to turn Solaris tobacco plants into jet biofuel.

Tobacco has an understandably negative perception as the primary ingredient in cigarettes, which have been banned on airplanes in the U.S. for decades. So it’s an interesting idea that the plant can be put on airplanes again in a much different and more positive, environmentally-friendly way. The idea is to partner with South African tobacco farmers and use the seeds from a hybrid tobacco plant called Solaris to produce oil. The oil can then be developed into a biofuel. “By using hybrid tobacco, we can leverage knowledge of tobacco growers in South Africa to grow a marketable biofuel crop without encouraging smoking,” said South African Airways Group Environmental Affairs Specialist Ian Cruickshank, in a press release.

The Solaris plants are currently undergoing tests in South Africa. Boeing hopes that with continued tests and new manufacturing processes, the entire plant can be used to make biofuel rather than just the seeds.

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