A newly developed type of energy-rich tobacco plant could be turned into sustainable jet fuel.
The novel technique means plants could find another use than as cigarettes and cigars.
US aviation firm Boeing announced this week it is working on a project with South African Airways and Dutch green jet fuel firm SkyNRG to create the new biofuel.
A hybrid plant known as Solaris is already being test-grown as crop by farmers in South Africa.
At first, oil from the plant’s seeds will be converted into jet fuel. In future Boeing expects emerging technologies to get biofuel from the rest of the plant.
Boeing International’s Managing Director for Africa, J. Miguel Santos said: “South Africa is leading efforts to commercialise a valuable new source of biofuel that can further reduce aviation’s environmental footprint and advance the region’s economy.”
Ian Cruickshank, South African Airways Group Environmental Affairs Specialist added: “By using hybrid tobacco, we can leverage knowledge of tobacco growers in South Africa to grow a marketable biofuel crop without encouraging smoking.”