September 01, 2015: Project Solaris, a program to turn tobacco into aviation biofuel, has been certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) for the production of the nicotine and GMO-free tobacco crop in South Africa.
The project has brought economic and rural development to the country's Limpopo province as well as a new regional bio jet fuel supply chain that is now RSB-certified for environmental and social sustainability.
RSB is recognized by NGOs as the "most comprehensive and ambitious" biomaterials sustainability certification program in the world. Partners in the project include the Boeing Company, South African Airways and SkyNRG.
"Developing a biofuel crop in South Africa's 'breadbasket' province has of course drawn us into the centre of the food vs fuel debate," said Joost van Lier, managing director of Sunchem South Africa, the project coordinator.
"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," he added.
"SkyNRG, as one of the main founders of Project Solaris, believes that the RSB standard should play a central role in the aviation sectors' efforts to develop truly sustainable jet fuel supply, meeting environmental and social safeguards. By receiving RSB certification, Project Solaris is achieving an important milestone for itself and for the aviation industry as a whole," noted Maarten van Dijk, CEO of SkyNRG.
South African Airways (SAA) is the end user of the fuel. Ian Cruickshank, SAA's group Environmental Specialist said: "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."