The Boeing logo is seen at their headquarters in Chicago
Jim Young  /  REUTERS
The Boeing logo is seen at their headquarters in Chicago, April 24, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young
updated 8/6/2014 6:42:04 AM ET 2014-08-06T10:42:04

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - U.S. planemaker Boeing has teamed up with South African Airways to develop jet fuel from a tobacco plant as part of efforts to cut carbon emissions and promote green energy in Africa's most advanced economy.

The jet fuel will be made from a hybrid tobacco plant known as Solaris, which will be produced by alternative jet fuel maker SkyNRG, both companies said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

Test farming of the plants, which are nicotine-free, is ongoing in South Africa, with biofuel output expected in the "next few years", the companies said.

"By using hybrid tobacco, we can leverage knowledge of tobacco growers in South Africa to grow a marketable biofuel crop without encouraging smoking," Ian Cruickshank, SAA's Group Environmental Affairs Specialist, said.

This biofuel has potential in several regions where traditional tobacco is cultivated, including Africa, southern and central Europe, Asia, Oceania and Latin America, Boeing spokeswoman Jessica Kowal said.

South Africa has set the beginning of October next year as the date when fuel producers will start blending diesel and petrol with biofuel to cut its reliance on imported fuel.

The biofuels industry in South Africa, the continent's biggest agricultural producer, has been held back by an inadequate regulatory regime and concerns that biofuels would hurt food security and impact food prices.

(Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Additional reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Ed Stoddard and Louise Heavens)

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