South Africa: Italian technology supports 1st Biofuel Flight by South African Airways
South African Airways has run its first flight over Africa powered with 50% biofuel between Johannesburg and Cape Town. The fuel comes from the “Solaris” tobacco seed and was developed and patented by Italian company Sunchem Holding.In 2007 Sunchem, which specialises in research and development in genetics and recombinant DNA technology, selected and cultivated a specific tobacco variety that was developed with researchers at the University Cattolica in Piacenza for energy applications. The biofuel can reduce CO2 emissions by 83% and South African Airways plans to have 50% of its fleet using biofuel by 2023. In collaboration with Dutch company SkyNRG, South African Airways and Boeing, Sunchem Holding’s South African subsidiary – Sunchem Biofuel South Africa – plans to extend the cultivation of “Solaris” tobacco to other countries in southern Africa, including Namibia and Zimbabwe. Apart from energy applications, the Solaris tobacco plant, which is now cultivated in the Limpopo region, one of the least developed in the country, can be used to produce animal feed and biomass to generate electricity in rural areas.