Get high on tobacco! Well, on a plane fuelled by tobacco at least

The drive to create sustainable fuels has taken a turn for the tobacco.

Following our latest update, plans to create a bio jet fuel from tobacco are finally taking off!

A group of airline companies, including Boeing and South African Airways have began the process of turning tobacco plants into clean jet fuel.

The tobacco plant in question is the nicotine free ‘Solaris’. This tobacco is grown specifically for energy applications, rather than the traditional smoking tobacco.

South African Airlines has been named as the company trialing this new biofuel, with test flights a possibility as early as next year.

Miguel Santos, Boeing’s Managing Director for Africa, said the project: “will benefit the environment and public health while providing new economic opportunities for South Africa’s small farmers.”

“This project also positions our valued airline customer to gain a long-term, viable domestic fuel supply.”

Ian Cruikshank, head of environmental affairs, said they’re hoping to cater for an increasing amount of jet fuel consumption by 2023.

“We are looking at between 400 to 500 million litres per annum, so it’s a fairly significant amount of fuel that we actually want to produce,” he said.

Solaris tobacco is extremely robust – it can grow in various climates and soils, and even on marginal lands that can’t be used to produce food.

Refining Solaris tobacco creates many useful products too, not just biofuel. Crude oil can be used for energy production and biodiesel too.

It also yields oil-cake and fresh, dry biomass. The oil-cake can be used for animal feed due to its high fat content, whilst the biomass will help generate electricity and biogases.

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