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EBA’s BIOMETHANE fact sheet

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Powered By Waste – Creating Fuel From Landfill Gas

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Report: Coal, biomass mix may be in military jet fuel future

The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency and the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology recently released results of a research project that investigated the technical feasibility, commercial viability and environmental compliance of the use of liquefied coal and biomass mixtures as a military jet fuel replacement.

Overall, the research “showed potentially highly effective alternative fuel resources that can end the current debate,” according to the project report. Objectives of the study included the investigation, through analyses and testing of the use of domestic coal and biomass mixtures to make liquid fuel (CBTL), with a focus on gasification.

The project team executed gasification testing and analyses of 150 coal-biomass feedstock tests, performing them at five different partner and facility locations—the Energy and Environmental Research Center in Grand Forks. N.D., the U.S. DOE National Carbon Capture Center in Wilsonville, Alabama, Westinghouse Plasma Corporation at Madison, Pennslyvania, ThermoChem Recovery International, Inc. in Durham, North Carolina, and Emery Energy Company in Laramie, Wyoming.

All CO2 footprint projections of alternative jet fuel made from solid feedstocks tested were below the petroleum baseline for blended jet fuel (50 percent alternative fuel plus 50 percent petroleum-based fuel), thereby satisfying Section 526, according to the report.

Other major findings included:
– When coal was the sole feedstock, the CO2 footprint was the largest and required the most capture.
– Increasing percentages of biomass in the solid feed generally resulted in lower CO2 footprints and smaller amounts of required capture.
– Torrefied wood offers advantages in blending with coal and lowering the CO2 footprint for the CBTL plant.
– Municipal solid waste and biomass (considered to be “nuisance plants” in areas where they are abundant) may be economically feasible for use as feedstocks.
– Feedstock preparation and feed system design are critical to the successful development of a large-scale CBTL project.
– Electricity generation and CO2 displacement credits from CBTL are significant contributors to lower GHG emissions. At a ratio of 30 percent biomass, emissions were 38 to 62 percent below the baseline; with 10 percent biomass, 13 to 33 percent below the baseline; and with no biomass, 2 to 18 percent below the baseline.

On economic findings, the study found that on the rough order of magnitude, cost estimates using the techno-economic model for a 50,000 barrel-per-day CBTL plant with an entrained flow gasifier or transport gasifier showed average required selling price (RSP) of jet fuel ranged from approximately $134 to $170 per barrel, on a crude oil equivalent basis. Instances where coal was the sole feedstock resulted in the lowest RSP; increasing the percentages of raw biomass in the solid feed generally resulted in a higher RSP. Using torrefied rather than raw biomass resulted in a lower RSP, according to the report.

The project team concluded that blending various grades of coal with biomass presents a credible approach for reducing carbon dioxide emissions and producing alternative jet fuel.

The report also includes several factors that can improve commercial viability of CBTL technology, as well as recommendations for future study.

Waste Based Biodiesel to Power 1/3 of London Buses by March 2016

Transport for London (TfL)has unveiled plans for nearly one third of the city’s buses on B20 green diesel made from waste cooking oil by March 2016.

TfL explained that two bus operators, Stagecoach and Metroline, have signed deals with Argent Energy to supply them with the B20 green diesel.

The fuel is said to be cleaner burning and made by blending diesel with renewable biodiesel from waste products, including cooking oil and tallow from the meat processing trade.
It was said that the change will result in a reduction to CO2 emissions of 21,000 tonnes each year, in addition to the 48,000 tonne CO2 reduction from 2013 levels as a result of the introduction of lower emitting buses such as hybrids.

TfL said that it requires that biodiesel blended into B20 for London buses is made from waste, rather than crop-based feedstocks. It is estimated that buses running on waste-based B20 produce 10% less ‘well to wheel’ carbon emissions than a bus using ordinary diesel.

London’s bus network is one of the largest in the world, carrying almost 2.4 billion passengers every year. Currently, the 8900 strong bus fleet is said to use around 240 million litres of fuel per year. Under the new deals, about 80 million litres of the new greener blend of fuel per year will be consumed.

“This is ongoing progress for running our bus fleets on waste products and cutting CO2,” said deputy mayor for environment and energy, Matthew Pencharz.

“We will continue to work with our industry partners to use more of London’s used cooking oil turned into biodiesel right here in the city, creating green jobs and fuel self-sufficiency benefits,”he continued.

Mike Weston, TfL’s director of buses, added:“Our bus fleet is now making a major contribution to improving air quality and bringing down CO2 emissions… It’s just one of a number of measures we are taking to make London’s environment better for everyone.”

Quick Facts
· The Greater London Authority is undertaking a cost benefit analysis of biodiesel use and other renewable fuels in local authority fleets to help boroughs decide where the best opportunities lie to cut carbon and improve local air quality
· No mechanical change is needed to run a bus on a 20% blend of biofuel. The biodiesel being supplied by Argent Energy is all made from wastes and residues. This will be added to standard road diesel (EN590) which may already have a blend of up to 7% biodiesel allowed within the legislation
· B20 is a mix of 80% standard diesel with 20% biodiesel which are blended at Argent Energy’s London blending facility
· Delivering London’s Energy Future – the Mayor’s Climate Change Mitigation and Energy Strategy’ commits to minimising CO2 emissions from transport through the use of low carbon vehicles, technologies and fuels.

Biomethane from Organic Wastes Could Quadruple by 2021

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Biomethane Availability and Usability

Utilization of green energy has progressed tremendously over the last few decades. However, many renewable and environmentally friendly sources of energy pose a challenge when it comes to availability or usability, or both. Solar energy for instance can be successfully harnessed only in regions which have a high amount of sunshine, wind turbines can be used to generate electricity only in areas with sufficient amount and power of the wind, etc. which makes their usability largely limited to regions which have ideal geographical or/and weather conditions. Biomethane production, on the other hand, has no such limits. On the contrary, methane which is derived from organic matter and is equivalent to fossil fuel derived methane when it comes to both chemical structure and usability can be produced just about everywhere.

Biomethane is produced by anaerobic digestion (bacterial breakdown in absence of oxygen) of organic matter such as organic household waste, dead animal and plant material, manure, slurry, sewage and other organic materials which are found in large quantities on literally every step all over the world. The usability of anaerobic digestion of organic matter for power generation was discovered many years ago, however, biogas plants were not economically feasible due to relatively low cost of natural gas and other fossil fuels just a few years ago. But due to highly unstable fossil fuel prices, fears that peak oil has already been reached and the potentially catastrophic effects of global warming, the interest in sustainable and environmentally friendly sources of energy has increased dramatically in the recent years. Renewable energy, however, accounts for a small part of the total global energy output.

This is partly related to the fact that efficient technology for power generation from alternative sources of energy has been developed only recently but it is partly also related to limited availability/accessibility to green sources of energy. But the percentage of global energy that is generated from renewable and environmentally friendly sources of energy is steadily rising also thanks to biomethane. It provides a stable and efficient source of energy to regions which do not have the ability to generate power from solar energy, wind power, etc. Biomethane production requires only collection of organic waste material and construction of biogas plants which are very simple in technological terms and relatively inexpensive in comparison to other green power generation facilities of comparable power output.

Usability is another great advantage of biomethane besides availability. Since it is identical to fossil fuel derived methane, it can be used for space heating, water heating, cooking, etc. but it can also be used for electricity generation and if compressed, as fuel for vehicles. Burning biomethane produces the same amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as burning the conventional natural gas. But in contrary to the latter, biomethane does not increase the greenhouse effect and global warming because its utilization produces the same quantity of greenhouse gases as if organic matter would be left to decompose in nature.

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New Energy [R]Evolution Scenario from Greenpeace

The new 364-page Greenpeace scenario (GPER)1 portrays a world that is dominated by solar and wind by 2030 and even more so by 2050. Together they provide 43 per cent of electrical energy in 2030 and 75 per cent in 2050, replacing first lignite and nuclear, then coal and then gas. Biomass, geothermal and ocean power are given a minor role, but together with hydro they can help balance intermittent wind and photovoltaics. Much of this is what you would expect. Solar thermal, which produces power from solar heat, will also make also a big contribution, almost 19 per cent of all electricity by 2050, not so far behind PV. Heat can be stored, so power output is (somewhat) dispatchable, unlike PV, and can provide power at night. However, unlike photovoltaics, solar thermal power has so far not lived up to its promises. Greenpeace has long had high hopes for it, but has now postponed its breakthrough.

The hard part of reducing CO₂ emissions is not electricity, though. Neither is it heat, which can be provided via electricity, and that is what GPER counts on.

The hardest part is transport. There are three options: biofuels, electric cars, and hydrogen. Biofuels are produced in large quantity now, but mainly from farmland, where they may compete with food production and biodiversity. Electric cars are favoured by many car manufacturers, but Toyota, the biggest of them all, opts for hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars. GPER bets on both.
“The limited potentials of biofuels and probably also battery electric mobility make it necessary to have a third renewable option”, i.e. hydrogen.

This still means a tremendous increase in electricity (batteries) for road traffic: from 9 petajoules (PJ) in 2012, to 400 PJ in 2020 and 23,000 in 2050. Biofuels also increase, but only to about twice the present volume.
“The use of biofuels is limited by the availability of sustainably grown biomass. It will primarily be committed to heavy machinery, aviation and shipping, where electricity does not seem to be an option for the next few decades. Outside the transport sector, biomass is needed for specific industries to supply process heat and carbon”.

Let me add a personal note. When I interviewed people at the pro-CCS organisation Bellona in Oslo in 2008, their main line of argument was that CCS is needed because you cannot cut emissions enough without it. “Look at Greenpeace’s brand new [R]Evolution scenario”, they said. “It does not do the job!”

I found that this was true. The 2008 GPER projected just a 2 per cent global emission drop from year 2000 to year 2030. Fossil use in global primary energy demand would decrease only 50 per cent from 2010 to 2050. Obviously this was no way to save the world.

Intriguing. Greenpeace are no cowards. They are brave, outspoken, and smart!

They now have improved their act since 2008. The 2015 [R]Evolution sets 2050 CO₂ emissions at 4,358 Mtons, compared with 10,589 in the 2008 scenario. This means a fair chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees. But almost all the cuts are projected to take place after 2030. And this is not compatible with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.

Maybe that is what is likely to happen, but what then is the point? The scenario should look at possibilities, to explain what Greenpeace wants, not what it guesses.

Now energy modelling is a tricky business. You feed in a lot of data and assumptions and the least you should ask for is internal consistency, so all the sums add up. It is mathematically quite demanding to construct a model that generates numbers on coal consumption In China in 2050 that fit together with economic growth assumptions and wind power installations in North America in 2025. Obviously you do not want wind power to grow very fast one year and then grind to a halt the next year, because unless you have a fairly consistent trend, the model will get very unstable, so a small change in one assumption will cause a landslide of big changes everywhere else. Unless the computer overheats.

But this requirement for stability and smoothness of curves in the model seems to lead to an unwarranted conservatism about the rate of change.

In the real world things happen superfast, stop or even slide backwards, and then skyrocket again. Two neighbouring countries move at extremely different speeds. Take solar power development in a group of countries since 2007.

In 2007, Germany was practically alone in its quest for solar, though Spain had just started. Then several countries experienced growth rates of several hundred per cent for several years. Spain, for example, grew its solar production from 0.5 TWh in 2007 to 12 TWh in 2012, i.e. by a factor of 24, or an average annual growth of 89 per cent. The 2008 growth was more than 400 per cent. The reasons for the fits and starts are overwhelmingly political. The 470 per cent growth that was seen in Italy in 2011 decelerated in 2013 not because the infrastructure would not permit more or because the market was saturated. It decelerated because of political decisions, just as the boom started as a result of political decisions.

Much the same can be seen for wind power. Between 2013 and 2014, Egypt’s wind power grew by 3,244 percent. Denmark’s solar power capacity grew by 2,040 per cent in 2012.

The opposite, contraction, can also happen pretty quickly. As a result of the Fukushima accident, Japan went from 292.4 TWh of nuclear power in 2010 to zero in 2014. There was also a drastic change in Germany. UK coal use fell by 20 per cent in 2014. Gas consumption in Europe fell dramatically between 2011 and 2014.

Over a longer time span and over larger regions, curves get smoother. Not because of physical constraints or saturation – but because governments cave in to the fossil and nuclear lobby.

But even on longer timescales and around the whole world, the models tend to underestimate change. The IEA has consistently overestimated nuclear and coal, and underestimated wind and solar in its canonical annual World Energy Outlooks.

NGO scenarios have tended to bend and stretch the IEA models, but to stay within their framework. In models, CO₂ emissions appear as a product of GDP, population, energy intensity etc. This is highly questionable, because emissions are real, while GDP and energy intensity are just derived numbers. Population is real but its effect on emissions is too erratic to be useful for any prediction or prescription. Luxemburg, with just 0.5 million people, uses as much electricity as Ethiopia, which has 100 million people.

The 2008 [R]Evolution scenario projected 386 TWh solar PV for 2020. Greenpeace was too shy to even hope for what happened anyway.

Evolution, according to Charles Darwin, moves slowly by small, small steps. But then he did not know that all multicellular life started with one single extremely improbable event, and that one asteroid killed off all the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

The world is less inert, more susceptible to change, than the models depict. Perhaps it would be better to think more about the next 15 years, never mind 2050!

It is hard to get it right even so. Who now believes the GPER assumption that the oil price will be $106 by 2020 (and stay there)? It is $45 in November 2015. The difference has large consequences for all energy markets – but it does not have a strong influence on political decisions such as feed-in-tariffs or renewable certificates.

One advantage of modelling is, however, that it can optimize the use of resources, for example by avoiding building more power lines and storage than is really needed. If the world would follow the GPER recipe, it would save a lot of money. But don’t bet on a smooth transition!

Fredrik Lundberg
1. Also briefly presented in AN October 2015

US forests under threat as demand for wood-based biofuels grows – report

An increase in US wood pellet exports intended to reduce reliance on fossil fuels may be threatening ecologically important forests across the country, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council

European Union (EU) rules intended to reduce power plant reliance on fossil fuels are threatening significant areas of ecologically important hardwood forests across the southeastern US, and will do little to mitigate carbon emissions, according to a new report.

The report, produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in collaboration with the Conservation Biology Institute, detailed a 150% increase in wood pellet exports (pdf) from the US during the past three years. Most are bound for Europe, where power companies are replacing coal and other fossil fuels with wood-based biofuels in order to benefit from EU incentives on renewable energy sources.

Debbie Hammel, senior resource specialist for NRDC’s Land and Wildlife Program, said that the EU has few safeguards to ensure that wood pellet biofuel comes from plantation-grown trees and wood remnants, rather than wood harvested from mature forests. That calls into serious question EU claims of carbon-neutral biomass fuels, she said.

“When you burn wood pellets you are immediately and instantaneously releasing carbon into the atmosphere,” said Hammel. “And there’s very little certainty that those forests will continue to grow over the long term.”

The report detailed geographic information system mapping (GIS) conducted in bottomland hardwood forests and wetlands in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and southeastern Georgia – areas that have experienced rapid expansion of wood pellet manufacturing since 2012. It identified parts of Louisiana as another emerging zone of concern.

The report warned that 24m acres of unprotected forest lands across the southeastern US are at risk, largely from European biomass operations. It predicts that wood pellet manufacturing throughout the region could increase twelve-fold by 2020.

As new pellet mills come online, the report said, the areas they target for wood harvesting are likely to overlap with those of existing mills, creating what the report referred to as wood sourcing hotspots and intensifying potential ecosystem damage.

Southeastern forests in the US have long been under threat from urban sprawl, agriculture and the pulp and paper industries. Today, they are also increasingly under threat from rising sea levels. With the rise of the wood pellet industry, the risks to these ecosystems, which include hundreds of endangered, imperiled and threatened species, could escalate dramatically, warned James Strittholt, president of the Conservation Biology Institute.

“It makes perfect sense that we work toward a non-fossil fuel energy source – no argument there – but the issue is the alternatives we pick are not always benign and we need to be thoughtful about that,” Strittholt said. “Just because it’s trees and not fossil fuel, it shouldn’t be everything goes, because everything will indeed go if there aren’t some kinds of controls.”

Strittholt observed that development of new wood pellet facilities is moving much faster than regulators can respond. He noted that some of the forest lands identified just last year in the mapping project as future harvest sites have already been affected.

“From the looks of the data we’re seeing … there’s an economic opportunity, there’s a market, so the corporate response can be quite rapid compared with any safeguarding mechanisms already in place,” he said.

Pellet manufacturer Enviva and British utility Drax Power are leaders in the region’s expanding biomass industry. In an email, Enviva’s vice president of communications, Kent Jenkins Jr, countered some of the report findings. He said the majority of wood used by Enviva’s production plants in Virginia and North Carolina comes from upland forest and mixed stands rather than mature bottomland hardwood.

“Regardless of the source, we use only leftover and low-grade wood that undergoes a rigorous sustainability assessment, certified by independent third parties,” Jenkins said.

Hammel dismissed wood pellet makers’ sustainability standards as “extraordinarily insufficient”. She said companies need to be more transparent about the source of wood used in their products and decrease reliance on mature forests that might take hundreds of years to regrow, thereby undermining any potential emission mitigation.

The NRDC is urging the EU to enact more stringent standards for biomass carbon accounting. The organization is also asking the EU to cap the amount of biofuel permitted in power generation so the demand doesn’t outstrip the supply of actual low-carbon biomass like sawdust and remnant wood.

“These forests are our best defense against climate change,” Hammel said. “They soak up carbon and provide habitat for critically endangered species. EU policymakers need to do the right thing and protect forests and climate.”

East Delhi Commissions Hydropower Plant Powered By Sewage Effluent

Delhi is getting its first hydropower plant, but it’s not harvesting the energy of running water in the traditional hydroelectric model, as this new system uses falling water from a treated sewage effluent pipe to spin its turbine.

Recapturing some of the energy in flowing water that is generated by existing processes, such as municipal water supplies, is one non-traditional step for hydropower, and cities such as Portland have begun experimenting with this sort of ‘smart water pipe infrastructure.‘

The new hydropower plant, in East Delhi, India, is built onto the Delhi Jal Board’s 9 MGD sewage treatment plant at Chilla, and is said to be the first of its kind, not only because it’s being powered by effluent water, but also because it’s the first hydropower plant in the city. According to the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), this pilot project was set up “free of cost,” and the estimated annual 20,000 kWh of electricity produced by the hydropower installation will be used directly at the sewage treatment plant.

“The use of fossil fuels leads to the generation of carbon dioxide which in turn leads to Green House Effect and Global Warming. However no fossil fuel is being used in the generation of the power through Hydropower at Chilla, therefore this technology is termed as “pollution free technology.”” – Delhi Jal Board

The treated effluent water falls from a height of 4.8 meters at the sewage treatment plant, which is sufficient to spin the turbine and generate clean electricity, and this ‘Green Power Generation’ energy technology will help to reduce both air pollution and electricity costs. No additional specs, other than the estimated 20,000 kWh of electricity annually, for the installation were available. According to DJB, the Board is also looking to replicate this hydropower setup at its other installations in the future.

Tobacco-fueled planes set for SA take-off

A project involving the use of “mutagenised tobacco” for aviation fuel, supported by South African Airways, Boeing and SkyNRG this week got the thumbs up from the leading global sustainability authority.

Project Solaris has been recognised by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB), which has been identified by the World Wildlife Fund and other leading international NGOs as the “strongest sustainability guarantee on the market”.

Member organisations of RSB, an independent, global multistakeholder coalition working to promote the sustainability of biomaterials, include Boeing, Airbus and the international Air Transport Association.

Maarten van Dijk, SkyNRG’s CEO, said RSB’s certification of the Solaris project is an important milestone for the company and for the aviation industry in general.

Italian research and development enterprise Sunchem Holding owns the patent for “energy tobacco”, under which Solaris is the first seed to have been developed. The patent has been granted in 110 countries.

Sunchem Holding chief executive officer Sergio Tommasini told ANA the company was also exploring options for production in Malawi and Zimbabwe. The project has the potential to leverage the knowledge and experience of established traditional tobacco farmers, although it is not necessary to have the same climate conditions because Solaris can be cultivated under various conditions, said Tommasini.

Nonetheless, a project like this depends on a lot more than the weather, including trustworthy partners with imagination, which the company has found in South Africa.

Tommasini told ANA that, in South Africa, Sunchem had “found very solid partners, and in general it is the country that more than others (Brazil, Bulgaria, North Carolina) has embraced our vision and grasped its potential, considering especially the social impact that growing energetic tobacco could generate if applied on a large scale”.

The Solaris tobacco plant is free of nicotine and GMOs and maximises the production of flowers and seeds at the expense of leaves. The seed is about 40% oil and subjected to mechanical pressure about 34% of the seed oil can be extracted. This is more than double the yield from rapeseed, soy or sunflower. What is left, being free from nicotine, can be used in fodder for animals.

The project, which uses a mix of commercial farmers and smallholders, has brought economic and rural development to the Limpopo province, but questions will be asked about using arable land to produce fuel for aeroplanes.

“Developing a biofuel crop in South Africa’s ‘breadbasket’ province has of course drawn us into the centre of the food versus fuel debate,” said Sunchem South Africa’s managing director Joost van Lier.

“Having to undergo a systematic process of evaluating the social and environmental ramifications of this development, as prescribed by the RSB, has allowed us to feel confident in promoting Solaris, not only as a financially viable crop for farmers in the region, but also one that will not affect food security or lead to environmental degradation.”

RSB executive director Rolf Hogan said: “Project Solaris has demonstrated that it can deliver sustainability on the ground in line with the RSBs global standard.”

“This is the result of a serious commitment to working with local stakeholders, rural development and reducing greenhouse gases while safeguarding the Limpopo’s unique natural environment.”

Boeing is a premium sponsor and promoter of the Solaris technology worldwide. The company’s managing director for Africa, J. Miguel Santos, said: “We applaud South African Airways and the South African government for ensuring the sustainability of their emerging aviation biofuel supply chain as it is being developed. This milestone marks a very significant step forward in ensuring positive economic, social and environmental outcomes for aviation and the planet.”

SAA said it was a proud member of the RSB. “SAA is a proud member of the RSB and subscribes to the environmental and social sustainability principles enshrined in the RSB standard. This certification ensures that future fuels contribute to reductions in CO₂ and are environmentally sustainable and contribute social and economic benefits to our rural economy where it is needed most,” the group’s environmental specialist Ian Cruickshank said.

Tobacco Aviation Biofuel Ready For Takeoff, After 25 Years Of R&D

It’s been a long time coming, but the dream of tobacco-fueled flight is inching closer to reality. Research into a commercially viable strain of “energy tobacco” dates back to 1990’s-era biofuel labwork, which has finally developed into a venture called Project Solaris. The project launched in South Africa last year and just yesterday it garnered the green light from RSB, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials.

RSB certification is essential to the long term prospects of Project Solaris, which is located in the “breadbasket” province of Limpopo. It remains to be seen if biofuel crops can be grown at scale in the region without affecting food security, but Project Solaris brought RSB on board from the beginning, which should help its chances to prove its overall benefit to local farmers.



Project Solaris And Aviation Biofuel

CleanTechnica caught up with Project Solaris a little over one year ago, when the new tobacco biofuel venture launched with the backing of Boeing, South African Airways, and sustainable aviation biofuel marketer SkyNRG.

Project Solaris leverages a proprietary strain — non-GMO, by the way — of “energy tobacco” called Solaris, developed by the Italian company Sunchem. The strain was developed to push the bulk of the plant’s oils into seed production rather than leaves.

This handy timeline from Sunchem illustrates the 25-year progress of Solaris from the lab to a commercial prospect:


On Boeing’s part, Project Solaris is part of the company’s broader interest in halophytes for aviation biofuel (halophyte is fancyspeak for salt tolerant, desert-loving plants). Boeing is far from alone in that regard. Halophytes are attractive as a biofuel source not only from a sustainability angle, but from their potential for out-performing fossil fuels, particularly petroleum derived from tar sands.

Sustainable Biofuel, From Tobacco, In South Africa

For those of you in the US who are used to thinking of the southern states as tobacco central, guess again. Domestic tobacco production peaked long ago, and now South Africa is a major producer. If the global scourge of cigarette-derived cancer is to be quelled, then South Africa will lose a major cash crop. The Solaris Project provides an opportunity to replace it with another economic and rural development opportunity.

Limpopo is already one of the major tobacco-producing provinces in South Africa, so if the aim is to replace one strain of tobacco for smoking with another for flying, growing Solaris would not necessarily carve out acreage that could be used for food crops.

That’s where the aforementioned Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials comes in. Our sister site also took note of Switzerland-based RSB’s involvement last year, when Boeing stated that the aim was to grow Solaris “without harming food supplies, fresh water or land use.

In its announcement for Project Solaris’s certification, RSB particularly noted that the Solaris strain is nicotine-free as well as non-GMO, and that Project Solaris is expected to benefit the local economy as well as jumpstart a sustainable supply chain for aviation biofuel.

Sunchem South Africa Managing Director Joost van Lier also echoed the goal of developing an aviation biofuel supply chain that benefits local economies:

Developing a biofuel crop in South Africa’s ‘breadbasket’ province has of course drawn us into the centre of the food vs fuel debate. Having to undergo a systematic process of evaluating the social and environmental ramifications of this development as prescribed by the RSB has allowed us to feel confident in promoting Solaris, not only as a financially viable crop for farmers in the region, but also one that will not affect food security or lead to environmental degradation.

As we said, that all remains to be seen once Project Solaris cranks up to speed, but so far so good. South African Airways is already lined up to use the product, and that’s just the tip of the energy tobacco iceberg.

In addition to aviation biofuel, Sunchem notes that oil from its patented “Solaris Seed Tobacco” plant has a number of other iterations, for example biodiesel for electricity generation and marine use.

After the oil is extracted, leftover biomass from Solaris could also be used for biogas generation, and it could also have application as a paper pulp feedstock. Being nicotine-free and non-GMO, Solaris biomass also has potential for use in animal feed.

For those of you keeping score at home, South African Airways (SAA) has the goal of being “the most environmentally sustainable airline group in the world,” and it committed to a sustainable aviation biofuel supply chain with Boeing back in October 2013, leading to the launch of Project Solaris.

When Project Solaris celebrated the harvest of its first crop earlier this year, Boeing noted that a test flight by SAA will follow the first seed-to-fuel conversion, and it looks like both companies are optimistic about the prospects.

SAA is planning to rely on Solaris biofuel for half of its jet fuel supply at Johannesburg’s international airport by 2023, which comes out more than 100 million gallons.