Channel NewsAsia

Boeing launches plan to turn tobacco into jet fuel

US aerospace giant Boeing has said it is working with South African Airways and a Dutch biofuel company to make jet fuel from tobacco seeds.

JOHANNESBURG: US aerospace giant Boeing said on Wednesday (Aug 6) it was working with South African Airways and a Dutch biofuel company to make jet fuel from tobacco seeds. The Dutch firm, SkyNRG, is boosting its production in South Africa of a hybrid, nicotine-free, tobacco crop called Solaris with "biofuel production expected ... in the next few years," the three companies said in a statement.

"Initially, oil from the plant's seeds will be converted into jet fuel. In coming years, Boeing expects emerging technologies to increase South Africa's aviation biofuel production from the rest of the plant," added the firms.

Aviation biofuel, made from renewable resources such as plants, can reduce carbon emissions by 50 to 80 per cent. Airlines have flown more than 1,500 flights powered by biofuel globally since it was approved in 2011.

Earlier this year, Boeing and research partners in the Middle East said they would start field trials after recording progress in making biofuel from desert plants fed with seawater.

Critics of biofuels say they are often manufactured from food crops, or compete for land and water with food crops, driving up food prices.

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia