Published On: Fri, Jul 15th, 2016

Africa’s first biofuel powered planes flown

SAA west AfricaJOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – FRIDAY’S South African Africa Airways and Mango flights on Boeing 737-800s between Johannesburg and Cape Town have made history as the first sustainable biofuel flights to have taken place on the African continent.

The flights used home-grown feedstock from the Marble Hall area in the Limpopo region of South Africa as part of Project Solaris, a biofuels project named after the energy tobacco plant used.

The nicotine-free, hybridised tobacco plant lends itself to the production of biofuel as the Solaris plant produces small leaves and prodigious flowers and seeds that are crushed to extract a vegetable crude oil. The Solaris plant is ideally suited for this purpose as the remaining seedcake is used as a high protein animal feed supplement that also contributes to food security.

The first Solaris crop, comprising 50 hectares, was produced and harvested in December 2014 by Sunchem SA, from where the seed oils were extracted through crushing the seeds produced by the plants.

The plant then produces additional flowers and seeds which are harvested a few months later. The seedcake remaining after the crushing can be utilised for animal feed as it is high in proteins and the oil extracted is then available for refining into a biofuel.

Musa Zwane, SAA’s Acting Chief Executive Officer, says the project has brought economic and rural development to the Limpopo province in keeping with SAA’s mandate to support the South African National Developmental Plan.

“It establishes a new regional bio jet fuel supply chain of which we can rightfully be proud. SAA as a leading African and global airline is a trailblazer when it comes to environmental and social sustainability in Africa,” says Zwane.

Nico Bezuidenhout, Mango CEO, says Mango has always been in great support of environmental initiatives and has, over the past decade, engaged in several sustainable and environmentally beneficial social development programmes.

In addition, over time, we have taken several measures to reduce fuel consumption and, as a positive consequence, the reduction of emissions through the installation of lighter seating and removal of excess aircraft weight among others. It is a privilege to participate in the SAA biofuel programme, Bezuidenhout says.

“The project also shows how, when various role players come together and collaborate, success is imminent.”

Miguel Santos, managing director for Africa, Boeing International, says it is fitting that on their 100 year anniversary they are flying on fuels ‎that not only power the flights but ensure a sustainable future for our industry.

“This project is a great example of environmental stewardship that delivers economic and health benefits to South Africa.”

CAJ News

Featured Video