14 October 2013
South African Airways (SAA) and US aerospace giant Boeing are to work together to develop and implement a sustainable aviation biofuel supply chain in southern Africa, a first for the continent.
The companies signed a memorandum of understanding at the Corporate Council on Africa’s 9th Biennial US-Africa Business Summit in Chicago last week.
“South African Airways is taking the lead in Africa on sustainable aviation fuels and, by setting a best practice example, can positively shape aviation biofuel efforts in the region,” Ian Cruickshank, SAA’s head of group environmental affairs, said in a statement.
“By working with Boeing’s sustainable aviation biofuel team, which has a history of successful partnerships to move lower-carbon biofuels closer to commercialization, we will apply the best global technology to meet the unique conditions of southern Africa, diversify our energy sources and create new opportunities for the people of South Africa.”
According to the two companies, flight tests show that biofuel, which is derived from organic sources such as plants or algae, performs as well as or better than petroleum-based jet fuel.
“When produced in sustainable ways, biofuel contributes far less to global climate change than traditional fuels, because carbon dioxide is pulled out of the atmosphere by a growing plant-based feedstock,” the companies said.
Aviation biofuel refined to required standards has been approved for a blend of up to 50 percent with traditional jet fuel. Globally, more than 1 500 passenger flights using biofuel have been flown since the fuel was approved.
Boeing has collaborated extensively with airlines, research institutions and governments to develop plans for biofuel supply chains in several countries and regions, including the US, China, Australia and Brazil. The partnership with SAA will be the first such project in Africa.
“Boeing and SAA believe that new developments in technology will enable the conversion of biomass into jet fuel in a more sustainable manner without competing with other sectors for food and water resources.”
The World Wildlife Fund-South Africa will monitor the partnership to ensure that the fuel being used “is sustainable and would lead to genuine carbon reductions”.