in Air Transport

SAA welcomes the scaling up of sustainable local fuel supply in South Africa

Posted 2 December 2019 · Add Comment

South African Airways (SAA) and its wholly-owned subsidiary and low cost carrier, Mango Airlines, made history in 2016 as the first two airlines in Africa to operate commercial flights respectively, which were powered by sustainable aviation fuel produced from Sunchem’s nicotine-free tobacco plant, Solaris.

 

That occasion demonstrated it is possible to use a locally produced feedstock to manufacture bio-jet fuel for commercial aviation that meets all necessary sustainability criteria required by the international and multi-stakeholder organisation on biomaterial production and processing, Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB). This approach has been endorsed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and NGOs globally as the strongest sustainability standard for biofuels.

Today marks the launch of Project Reya Fofa, the follow up to Project Solaris. 

The project will introduce Solaris-based biodiesel into the ground-handling operations at O.R .Tambo International Airport.  This will support a feasible scale-up of feedstock production and infrastructure such that a fully localised value chain for a Hydro-treated Vegetable Oil (HVO) refinery may be achieved in the coming years, producing bio-jet fuel and green diesel. The next phase will be rolled out in a collaboration between Sunchem, Swissport, The Royal Bafokeng Nation (through implementing entity Moumo Integrated Development) and iLive. This is endorsed by South African Airways (SAA).

Aviation currently contributes 2-2.5% to worldwide CO2 emissions (the equivalent of Canada). Whilst compared to other industries this may not appear exorbitant, the fast growth in air traffic and the related increase in jet fuel consumption means that by 2050 global aviation could account for over 22% of all CO2 emissions. As such, the reduction of aviation’s emissions is a critical component of global climate mitigation action aimed at limiting warming to 1.5 °C.

SAA said it is fully committed to sustainable environmental transformation whilst supporting the creation of employment and new industries in South Africa, with the ultimate goal of blending 50% of its fuel with locally and environmentally sustainably produced biofuel. SAA is steadfast in working to become the leading African airline to operate bio-fuel powered flights on a sustainable basis in, and to markets on the African continent.

Beyond the climate and other environmental benefits of sustainable bio-fuel, a localised supply chain will have immense transformative power in terms of job creation, rural socio-economic development and macro-economic impacts such as a positive contribution to the Balance of Payments, minimised risk of foreign exchange exposure, tax revenues, and skills transfers.

The project partners are committed to achieving RSB certification for the project, ensuring that it delivers on real social, environmental and climate benefits. RSB certification will demonstrate that locally produced bio-fuel can support food security, job creation, biodiversity and much more. This will showcase the potential of the South African bio-economy to the world.

Scaling the cultivation of feedstock to reach the desired level of production of bio-jet fuel requires a roadmap that is based on an organic increase in land under cultivation and outlines the related investment and policy support required to develop large-scale local bio-fuel supply chains.

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