Project to grow “Solaris” tobacco in South Africa for bio jet fuel earns RSB certification
Project Solaris is a project in South Africa trying to grow a variety of tobacco, to produce “bio jet fuel”. It was announced in December that some 50 hectares were being grown. Oil is derived mainly from the leaves, rather than the seeds. Now the promoters of the technology, Sunchem, says they have earned the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) certification, for environmental and social sustainability, for the production of ‘Solaris’ tobacco in the Limpopo region of South Africa. They hope growing this tobacco will bring economic and rural development to the Limpopo province, as well as being a new regional bio jet fuel supply chain. The MD of Sunchem South Africa says developing a biofuel in South Africa’s ‘breadbasket’ has – inevitably – drawn the company into the food vs fuel debate. They hope they can persuade people that the crop will not affect food security or lead to environmental degradation. However, growing tobacco inevitably completes with food – as the crop needs water and fertiliser to grow economically. If the land is good enough to grow tobacco profitably, it is good enough to grow food. It is therefore diverting land away from food production. It also has the ILUC effect of an ever greater area of land in total to come under cultivation.
Project Solaris in South Africa earns RSB certification
1.9.2015 (Biofuels News)
Project Solaris in South Africa has earned the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) certification for the production of the energy rich tobacco crop ‘Solaris’ in the Limpopo region of South Africa.
Solaris is a nicotine-free and GMO-free crop variety that yields significant amounts of sustainable oil that can be used as feedstock for bio jet fuel.
Project Solaris has involved the RSB from the start to ensure the incorporation of the RSB Standards into the development and up-scaling protocols and to get the operations certified.
The project has brought economic and rural development to the Limpopo province in South Africa as well as a new regional bio jet fuel supply chain that is now RSB certified for environmental and social sustainability.
‘Project Solaris has demonstrated that it can deliver sustainability on the ground in line with the RSBs global standard. This is the result of a serious commitment to working with local stakeholders, rural development and reducing greenhouse gases while safeguarding the Limpopo’s unique natural environment,’ says RSB’s executive director, Rolf Hogan.
Joost van Lier, managing director of Sunchem South Africa, says developing a biofuel in South Africa’s ‘breadbasket’ has – as to be perhaps expected – drawn the company into the food vs fuel debate.
‘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 continues.
Managing director for Africa J. Miguel Santos from Boeing, a premium sponsor and promoter of the Solaris technology worldwide, says: ‘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. This milestone marks a very significant step forward in ensuring positive economic, social, and environmental outcomes for aviation and the planet.’
RSB is recognized by NGOs as the ‘most comprehensive and ambitious’ biomaterials sustainability certification program in the world.
RSB provides a holistic approach towards sustainability assurance, covering social, environmental, economic and operational aspects in its analysis.
South African project to produce biojet fuel from “Solaris” tobacco – competing with food for land
Boeing and South African Airways plan to collaborate with SkyNRG and Sunchem SA to produce fuel from the nicotine-free Solaris variety of tobacco plant which South African Airways will test in flight. They are calling this “Project Solaris” and the first 50 hectares of Solaris have been planted in Limpopo province. The test crop will be harvested for the first time in December 2014, and the first test flights could begin next year. The aim is to provide new economic opportunities for small farmers, and fuel security, and much is being made of jobs created with new skills. Though some oil is found in tobacco seeds, the plants few, so oil is derived from the leaves. South African Airways hopes to use 20 million litres of biofuel in 2017, before reaching 400 million litres by 2023. SkyNRG hope to have 250,000 hectares planted with Solaris by 2025. When the oil price was high, there were hopes the tobacco-derived jet fuel would save money, but now the price of oil has tumbled, the scheme finances may be different. If the test farming in Limpopo is successful, the project will be expanded in South Africa and potentially to other countries. However, growing tobacco completes with food – as the crop needs water and fertiliser to grow economically. It is therefore diverting land away from food production