6. Tobacco seed oil for biofuels
Affiliation: CNR-ISPA, Lecce, Italy
In this chapter, tobacco is described as a model plant used to study the effect of genetic interventions
on biomass production, lignification and plant growth. In addition, tobacco has been studied for its
ability to produce seed oil in established and new varieties devoid of nicotine. One of these health-
friendly variety, Solaris, has been patented for the high amount of seeds and seed oil of good quality
for transformation into biofuels. The chapter gives an overview on the economic measures and
debate on biofuels and alternative fuels of second generation in Europe and around the world.
Sustainability issues in this field are presented. Finally, Solaris pilot plants in South Africa are
discussed from a sustainable economy point of view.
Keywords: genetic improvement; tobacco seed oil (TSO); oilcake, feedstock biomass; fuels;
renewable jet fuel; municipal solid waste (MSW), Renewable Energy Directives (RED); Greenhouse
Gas (GHG) Emissions; Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD);
indirect land use change (ILUC); Roundtable of Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB); Life Cycle
Assessment (LCA); combined heat and power (CHP); European Biofuels Technology Platform
Tobacco is an annual plant, with the harvest in the same year of the sow, allowing farmers to plant
even two or more crops in the same year where the climate conditions are favourable. It is the major
non-alimentary plant in the world with a production extension higher than four million hectares in the
whole world. Tobacco, amongst the agricultural plants, is valued mainly for its leaves through
transformation of leaves into smoking products. Considering its nicotine content and the harm posed
for human health, there have always been regulations aimed to control its production.
The evolution of the Nicotiana genus into different habitats, initially through natural selection and
polyploidisation and through human-driven selection, has brought to the development of new varieties
selected on the basis of leaf properties. The tobacco plant presents a very large leaf area, a small
inflorescence and a ratio aerial part/roots that is the highest observed among agricultural plants.
Recently, alternative uses of tobacco have been proposed, in addition to its use as a plant easily
modified with transgenes: the production of alimentary proteins through purification from leaves, or
the extraction of pharmacologically useful active ingredients.
The economic life-line of millions of people world-over depends on tobacco, therefore this crop needs
to be sustained by taking advantage of its potential for alternative uses. To convert this threat into an
opportunity and to sustain the crop, it is imperative to intensify the research efforts towards
channelling tobacco into non-conventional and economically viable alternative uses.
Few publications suggest further use for tobacco as a source of the seed by-product for oil extraction.
In particular, several authors stated that “the seed is a by-product of the leaf production” (Giannelos et
al., 2002) proposing the possibility of using seeds for the production of fuels, describing methods for
the extraction of oil form tobacco seeds that uses solvents, and indicating that the oil extracted from
tobacco may not be used as such as biodiesel due the high iodine value in it.
Another work (Usta 2005) described trans-esterification of tobacco seed oil to make biodiesel fuel,
estimating the worldwide production of seed deriving from tobacco's cultivation for leaves and
presenting a protocol for oil extraction from seed through the use of solvents.
The technological processes for oil extraction comprise mechanical (pressure) method and solvents
extraction. In practice, the two systems are often combined. In general the mechanical extraction is
carried out on seeds containing more than 20% of fat material (e.g. rape and sunflower) wherein the
seeds dimensions are favourable for the pressing technique. Generally, the possibility of extracting oil
mechanically, facilitates the direct extraction in the seed production sites, hence also at the farm's
level, with small plants. For lower quantities of fat material chemical extraction is used, and can be
applied also to the oilcake, leftover of the mechanical extraction, in order to recover the remaining 6-
12% of oil left after the mechanical treatment. The mechanical extraction further produces the protein
oilcake whereas the chemical one produces flour. The latter, used in animal feeding, weights in a
critical way upon the production and processing of oily seeds economy. In certain cases the
production is bound to the protein flour request (e.g. soybean). The crude oil may subsequently be
rectified with a series of physicochemical treatments (e.g. pH adjustment, filtration, degumming,
discolouration, etc.) depending on the intended use.
The mass balance of the entire process varies from species to species. Considering sunflower seeds
with an oil content of 42%, from a ton of seeds 420 kg of crude oil, 580 kg of oilcake are obtained,
with a yield of 390 kg of refined oil and 30 kg of process residuals. Taking into account that the
average yield of sunflower seeds is about 2.6 t/ha (+/−15%) it can be calculated that the yield/hectare
of oil is equal to one ton. This relation is valid also for other species, in particular for rapeseed.
Vegetable oils may be used directly as fuel oils for heat production (ovens or boilers) or mechanic
energy production (engines), utilizing their gross calorific value that is about 8,500 kcal/kg or, after
trans-esterification to transform them into biodiesel with a iodine value that has to be equal or lower
In recent years, a publication (Patel et al., 1998) estimated the production of tobacco seed as a by-
product of leaves in India equal to 1,171 kg/ha with a content of oil of 38% by weight. In literature,
other authors proposed to select varieties for tobacco seed oil (TSO) content and quality (Velikovic et
al., 2006; Usta et al. 2011; Mohammad and Tahir, 2014). Several tobacco varieties were assessed for
their TSO content (Chiririwa et al., 2014). Isolation and separation of the chemical constituents of the
TSO by Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC) is performed and the TSO characterised by Fourier
Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FT-IR);chemical composition of TSO is analysed using Gas
Chromatography (GC). The tobacco seeds varieties studied by Chiririwa yielded glyceride oil content
around 34.17%-36.55%. Fatty acid content showed a main presence of palmitic [8.83 % - 9.26%],
oleic [9.97 % - 11.69 %] and linoleic acid [64.38 % -68.49 %], determining physical properties such as
density [925.63 kg/m3] and viscosity of 94.30. The oil had iodine value of 133.71, too high to be used
6.2.1 Feedstock Biomasses
Sustainable biomass feedstock is the key to sustainable biofuels. The impact of bioenergy on social
and environmental issues may be positive or negative depending on local conditions and the design
and implementation of specific projects. That means that a specific feedstock may be sustainable, or
unsustainable, depending on how and where the feedstock is produced.
Plant production must be optimised with respect to energy inputs and highly efficient conversion of
biomass. Conversion processes such as fermentation must be optimised for optimal conversion of
feedstock to useful products, which must then be optimised for different end uses as mixtures for
motor fuel, additives and chemical feedstocks. In turn, internal combustion engines need to be re-
designed to run on different formulations with unprecedented fuel efficiency. All of these activities
must be held together within an over-riding framework of sustainability and economic
competitiveness. Of particular interest are the systems-based analyses of sustainability at global and
at local levels. The present studies address centrally important issues such as the availability of land,
access to production inputs such as water and sunlight, and global trade. There is sufficient land
available for cultivating bioenergy crops, and the potential of lignocellulose production and conversion
can meet a substantial proportion of transport fuels. The present efforts focus on two potential
bioenergy feedstocks: the so-called “first generation” feedstocks oils, starch and sugars, and the
“second generation” feedstock lignocellulose. It is clear that first generation feedstocks need to be
developed to meet current objectives in Europe. ABAgri, in Leeds, has focused on efforts on co-
production as an essential component of ethanol production from wheat grains. Starch is fermented to
ethanol, fibrous material is processed to ruminant feed, and the protein rich fraction is used for non-
Sugar beet, sorghum, corn, sugarcane are first generation sugar or starch bioethanol feedstocks.
Second-generation cellulosic ethanol is primarily produced from lignocellulosic biomass such as
perennial grasses like switchgrass, miscanthus, giant cane, eucalyptus, willow and poplar. Progress
in developing Poplar, Willow and Miscanthus as sources of lignocellulose has been described. In the
closely related willow, a crop more specifically suitable for growth in Northern Europe, breeding
populations and selected lines have been established that exhibit stunning yield increases.
Oil producing plants such as Jatropha curca, sunflower, palms offer similar opportunities: grown
sustainably, seeds and fruits can provide both animal fodder and an oil which may readily be made
into diesel fuel. The various feedstock sources, from lignocellulosic feedstock biomasses to
multipurpose starch and sugar crops to algae, have been detailed in Figure 6.1; the figure shows the
processes available to produce sugars, ethanol, and final products to be obtained, such as renewable
transport fuels as gasoline components and fuels for diesel engines.
Noteworthy, feedstock biomass can potentially be increased by changing the environmental growth
conditions such as carbon allocation in the form of carbon dioxide, oxygen, water supply and soil
nutrient content. Selection criteria for agronomic traits have been based on high biomass yield and
type of lignocellulosic composition. Other traits include a) photosynthetic efficiency; b) long canopy
duration with a short perennial life span; c) translocation of photosynthesized carbohydrate into
structural lignocellulose. Such traits are common in perennial species such as miscanthus and
switchgrass. The recalcitrance of perennial crops to Agrobacterium mediated transformation is the
main bottleneck so that scientists need to improve the transformation potential through further
6.2.2 Tobacco mutagenesis and genetic studies
An approach to increase the feedstock biomass is applying functional genomics and mutation studies
on model plant systems such as tobacco. In these studies, genes involved in phytohromone
metabolism, cell-cycle machinery or cellulose and hemicellulose biosynthesis pathways have been
identified, targeted and altered for enhanced plant growth and byproducts. There have been
numerous attempts in recent years to manipulate the cellulose and hemicellulose biosynthetic
pathways. For instance, a recent study analyzed transgenic tobacco lines down regulated, using
antisense sequences, for the lignin biosynthetic enzymes Cinnamate-4-hydroxylase (se4h),
Cinnamoyl-CoA-reductase (ccr) and lignin specific peroxidase (prx), and compared with UDP
glucuronic acid decarboxylase (uxs) involved in nucleotide sugar pathway of xylan biosynthesis. It
was shown that lines down regulated in prx showed 3 fold improvement in enzymatic saccharification,
and lines down regulated in uxs improved saccharification by 50% when compared to wild type.
(Cook et al., 2012). Secondary walls presented great differences in xylem of transgenic lines of
tobacco altered for lignin or xylan content, with potential industrial applicability to improve biomass
utilization (Cook et al., 2012).
In one mutational study, lignin biosynthetic enzyme, O-methyl transferase (OMT) has been
suppressed in order to increase overall biomass accumulation in transgenic tobacco, while no
changes in lignin deposition were reported (Blaschke et al., 2004). In other studies, Cinnamoyl-COA-
reductase (CCR) was downregulated in transgenic tobacco resulting in an overall drop in lignin
composition and simultaneous increase in xylan and cellulose composition in tobacco secondary cell
wall (Chabannes et al., 2001), while enhanced enzyme saccharification was obtained by down-
regulation of a lignification-specific peroxidase (Kavousi et al., 2010). In another study, lignin
accumulation was delayed in transgenic tobacco with altered expression of phenylpropanoid pathway
associated enzyme class II cinnamate 4-hydroxylase (Blee et al., 2001).
Plant height (PH) is one of the most important agronomic traits in tobacco. The genetic basis of plat
height has been linked to chromosomes 6 and 12 (Cheng et al. 2015). Inheritance and trans-
generation transmission studies were done using the F2 and F3 populations derived from NC82 (P1)
and Kang88 (P2) crosses, to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) affecting PH in tobacco. Two main
quantitative trait loci (M-QTL), designated qPH-6 and qPH-12, were mapped using linkage mapping
(LM). The QTL qPH-12 was identified as stably expressed in different tobacco generations as well as
in various environments. The results showed the advantages of using QTL analysis in tobacco
through a combination of LM and association mapping (AM), for the understanding of the inheritance
of PH in tobacco.
Plant hormones are responsible for regulating growth and development throughout their life span.
Phytohormones interact with each other and other signaling pathways affecting plant growth.
Gibberellins (GA) and brassinosteroids have been reported to play a vital role in growth associated
with stem elongation and thickness. In one study, transgenic tobacco was engineered to express
GA20-oxidase gene from Arabidopsis, showed enhanced biomass accumulation owing to increased
plant height and higher lignification of vessels, with GA mediating deposition of lignin (Biemelt et al.,
2004). Silencing GA2-oxidase, a gibberellin deactivating enzyme, abolished the catabolism of GA,
allowing greater gibberellin accumulation (Dayan et al., 2010). Silenced tobacco plants showed an
improvement in growth characteristics, compared with the wild type and GA20-oxidase over-
expressing plants. Moreover, the number of xylem fiber cells in the silenced lines exceeded that of
GA 20-oxidase over-expressing plants, potentially making GA 2-oxidase silencing more profitable for
the wood and fiber industries. In another study, elevated growth rate in tobacco has been reported by
overexpression of D-type cyclin (CycD2) gene from Arabidopsis responsible for cell division and
proliferation (Cockcroft et al., 2000). The transgenic tobacco was described having taller stem and
elevated overall growth rate with early flowering timing.
During a transformation experiment by mutagenesis using T-DNA insertion, Kuhar obtained a
transgenic tobacco plant that grew to the size of a small tree (Kuhar 2014). The high biomass
producing transgenic tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum cv. Xanthi) line, termed giant recombinant (GR),
has the potential for a new class of energy crops by converting normal plants to high biomass
producing plants. To characterize the GR line, Kuhar analyzed lignocellulosic composition (cellulose,
hemicellulose and lignin) relative to the non-transgenic control line and the growth rate of the plants.
The GR line accounted for 240% more biomass than the untransformed line within 135 days of its
germination. There were significant differences in chemical composition within GR line, and relative to
control line. The GR characteristics are likely due to a disruption or activation of an unknown gene,
that could lead to develop feedstock plants for bio-based energy.
6.2.3 Selection of tobacco varieties for biotic stress, pathogen, nematode resistance
Tobacco varieties show a high variability in resistance to plant pests. The objective of breeding
programs has been the development of tobacco varieties that have significantly higher levels of pest
resistance, combined with improved yield potential. Agronomic traits, including yield, plant type, leaf
quality, and disease resistances, are determined for each entry. To be acceptable for release as a
new variety, a test entry must compare favourably to two standard or "check" varieties, to evaluate
and approve new breeding lines before made available to burley producers.
Black shank, Phytophthora nicotianae (Pn), is prevalent throughout the burley-producing region of the
United States and is responsible for millions of dollars in lost profits for tobacco farmers. Development
of varieties with increased resistance to black shank has been shown feasible (Miller et al., 2000). KT
200, a new black shank resistant burley hybrid, was released by the Kentucky-Tennessee Tobacco
Improvement Initiative in April 2000. Although current management is effective, unsolved problems
are pathogen persistence and also costs for treatments (Holdcroft, 2013).
Hybridization has been used to develop flue-cured tobacco cultivars heterozygous for a single,
dominant gene (Php) originally transferred from N. plumbaginifolia (Johnson et al., 2009). The Php
gene provides complete resistance to race 0 of the black shank.
The successful development of blue mold resistant tobacco varieties required offshore breeding
nurseries, established in Guatemala and Mexico. Since blue mold generally occurs throughout
Central America each year, establishment of nurseries in these countries increased the probability of
having significant blue mold pressure to screen for resistance in breeding materials.
The incidence of Fusarium wilt in tobacco crops is also increasing each year. The majority of varieties
planted today have not been thoroughly evaluated for resistance to this disease; many appear to
have little or no resistance to Fusarium wilt. Germplasm and breeding materials need to been
screened for resistance to the disease. Resistant germplasm has been used to incorporate Fusarium
wilt resistance into existing varieties.
Concerning tobacco cyst nematode (TCN), Globodera tabacum solanacearum, four Nicotiana
species, N. glutinosa L., N. paniculata L., N. plumbaginifolia Viv., and N. longiflora Cav., are known to
possess resistance to TCN. Hybrids developed from N. plumbaginifolia are highly resistant to TCN. In
the past, few TCN-resistant cultivars were available, but the yield and leaf quality from these cultivars
were lower than in TCN-susceptible cultivars. The Php gene also significantly reduces TCN
population densities (Johnson et al., 2009). These hybrid cultivars combine resistance to black shank
and TCN with high yield and leaf quality characteristics (Crowder et al., 2003).
The application of the systemic acquired resistance (SAR)-inducing compound acibenzolar-S-methyl
(ASM), as well as the addition of a mixture of Plant Growth Promoting (PGPR) Bacillus strains, are
able to suppress TCN reproduction by an average of 60% in oriental (cv. Xanthi NN) and flue-cured
tobacco (cv. K326) (Parkunan et al., 2009). Tobacco plants treated with SAR inducing agents and
plant-growth promoting bacteria were challenged with tobacco cyst nematode (TCN) under
greenhouse conditions. Cultivars possessing the Php gene (Php+) were compared with Php- cultivars
to assess the effects of resistance mediated via Php gene vs. induced resistance to TCN.
Administration of bacterial strains consistently reduced nematode reproductive ratio on both Php+ and
Php- cultivars, but the effect of ASM across Php- cultivars was limited. The results showed that PGPR
bacteria consistently reduced TCN reproduction in all flue-cured tobacco cultivars tested, while
Systemic Acquired Resistance affects TCN only in Php+ cultivars (Parkunan et al., 2009).
The selection of varieties highly resistant to pathogens is based on a protocol with specific
agronomical in field procedures. After nursery management techniques, plantlets are put in squared
areas with replicates, numbered and challenged with pests and nematodes (see figure 6.6). For each
treatment, a protocol for fungicide or parasite treatment is applied to cultivated areas to avoid
inhibitory effects from other pests. A treatment for weed control facilitates the proper growth of the
plantlets. At the adult stage, the varieties that show better growth in the presence of pests are
selected. Then, hybrids are crossed to allow introgression of resistances to viruses and fungi.
6.3.1 Bioeconomy of biofuels
The ever-increasing population of both the developing and developed nations of the world and the
consequent increase in their diesel consumption and the non-renewability of diesel source
(petroleum), as well as the adverse environmental effects of diesel burning are factors that compel
authorities to find alternatives to petroleum diesel.
Global agricultural is expected to slow over the next 10 years and cereal production is projected to be
15% higher by 2023 compared to 2013 period, outpaced by growth in livestock and biofuels. Cereals
remain still at the core of human nutrition but there is a shift to diets higher in fats, sugar and protein.
Biofuel production and consumption is expected to grow by more than fifty percent, led by sugar-
based ethanol and biodiesel.
Renewable energy sources include wind power, solar power (thermal, photovoltaic and
concentrated), hydroelectric power, tidal power, geothermal energy, biomass and the renewable part
The use of renewable energy has many potential benefits, including a reduction in greenhouse gas
emissions, the diversification of energy supplies and a reduced dependency on fossil fuel markets (in
particular, oil and gas). Biodiesel life cycle analysis (LCA) shows it affects a 78 % reduction in CO2
(greenhouse gas) emissions relative to petro diesel. The unpredictable price fluctuations of crude oil
in the international market have also been a major source of concern in total dependence on diesel
fuel. Reports by Rudolf Diesel in the early1900’s showed that vegetable oils could be used as diesel
fuel, and other papers reported on the use of vegetable oils in diesel engines in the 1940' and after
the end of war (Tatti and Sirtori 1937, Amrute 1947).
The growth of renewable energy sources may also have the potential to stimulate employment
through the creation of jobs in ‘green’ technologies. The primary production of renewable energy
within the EU-28 in 2013 was 192 million tonnes of oil equivalent, a 24.3% share of total primary
energy production from all sources. Among renewable energies, the most important source in the EU-
28 was biomass and renewable waste, accounting for two thirds (64.2 %) of primary renewables
production in 2013. The share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption is identified as
a key indicator for measuring progress under the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and
At European level, there is an urge to increase the production of alternative biofuels. The current
European target is for renewable fuels to make up 10% of the energy used in transport by 2020. The
biggest cause of apprehension, considering the principle of greenness, is that biofuels are made from
food crops or from plants grown on land that might otherwise produce such crops, hurting food
supplies. According to this aspect, a committee of the European Parliament posed a limit to the use of
“first-generation” biofuels. The new proposed targets in EU Commission define that only seven-tenths
of renewable energy will originate from first-generation fuels. The difference of three-tenths will be
made up by second generation fuels, advanced fuels based on waste products and other feedstocks
that do not affect food production. That translates in European demand for advanced biofuels to reach
14 billion litres by 2020. Only two types of advanced fuels are capable of large-scale production today
in Europe. The first one is based on turning waste cooking oil and other fats into diesel. Europe
already has 2 billion litres of capacity to process these by-products. The second type of plants are
producing ethanol from cellulose by enzymatic hydrolysis.
A number of EU projects addressed the feedstock issue, eg. ITAKA project improving the readiness
of existing technology and infrastructure: focus on camelina & cooking oil. Oil from plants is extracted,
hydrocracked, products are isomerised to obtain paraffins and iso-paraffins.
Several EU projects have been funded to provide solutions to the challenge of feedstock processing.
In one such project, the EMPYRO consortium was led by BTG.Bio-oil, for combined heat and power
(CHP) and acetic acid at AkzoNobel Global, The Netherlands, a Multi-national manufacturing
corporation, active in healthcare products, coatings and chemicals. The EMPYRO pyrolysis oil plant
of Biomass Technology Group in the Netherlands was the first EU plant to sign a long term supply
contract of the bio-oil to replace fuel oil. In EMPYRO, full conversion configurations have been
estimated for a range of economies of scale, 1 MW, 675 MW and 1350 MW LHV of bio-oil. The economic
competitiveness was found to increase with increasing scale. A cost of production of FT liquids of 78.7
Euro/MWh was obtained based on 80.12 Euro/MWh of electricity, 75 Euro/t of bio-oil and 116.3 million
Euro/y of annualised capital cost (Ng and Sadhukhan 2011).
In another project, the LED consortium, was led by Abengoa industries. To produce from straw and
maize bioethanol and renewable hydrocarbons. The CHEMREC Bio-DME project has been the first
project to demonstrate the conversion of black liquor to bio-dimethyl-ether, through the production of
synthesis gas which is converted to second generation biofuels. Black liquor is a waste product
resulting from the conversion of pulpwood into paper pulp. Dimethyl ether is an advanced biofuel
produced by catalytic dehydration of methanol, or from syngas. Above -25°C or below 5 bar, DME is a
gas. Hence its use as a transport fuel is similar to that of Liquid Propane Gas.
InteSusAl is a still ongoing EU project. Three European algae biofuel projects with a common LCA
approach. Three large scale algae production facilities are under development. These will be the
largest facilities built in Europe; with a productivity of 90 tonne/hectare of dry matter algal biomass per
year for each facility (30 hectares totally).
Infinite Fuels GmbH works on the development and market introduction of a unique technology for
transformation of renewable electricity, biomass and waste into sustainable hydrocarbons serving as
basic chemicals and fuels. The incubator for start ups KIC InnoEnergy Germany, has signed five new
German start-ups under its Business Creation Accelerator programme (KIC InnoEnergy’s Highway).
The companies were selected by a committee of experts for their ability to innovate, as well as
potential to drive Europe’s move towards sustainable energy with high-performance and efficient
Swedish Biofuels company is devoted to the synthesis of Fully Synthetic Kerosene (FSK). Swedish
Biofuels produces alternative fuels for aviation: These must be drop-in fuels, meaning that they do not
require any modification to the aircraft, the engine, the fuel system, the distribution network or
logistics. Lignocellulosic residues are hydrolised into sugars and charcoal, processed into syngas,
that together with alcohols are hydrocracked and isomerised to obtain paraffins and iso-paraffins, with
aromatics and cyclo-paraffins.
There are several types of biofuels.
SKA are synthetic paraffinic kerosene with aromatics- used as a blendstock with conventional jet fuel.
FSK are Fully Synthetic Kerosene. This fuel falls within the conventional jet fuel specification- to be
used as neat jet fuel.
SIP, a synthesized iso-paraffine, C15, is obtained from from farnesan, a sugar molecule ( component
for blending with conventional jet fuel)
Hydroprocessed oils and fats (HRJ/HEFA) are converted into kerosene-like fuel ( SPK ), a synthetic
paraffinic kerosene used as a blendstock with conventional jet fuel.
ATJ = fuel produced from C2-C5 alcohols, as single alcohol or multicomponent mixture, into kerosene
like fuel and kerosene (SPK, SKA, FSK).
Overview of the process to produce kerosene-like fuel (SPK). Coal and biogas are gassified into
syngas, then n-paraffins are synthesised through the Fischer Tropsch (FT) process and hydrocracked
and isomerised to obtain paraffins and iso-paraffins as kerosene-like fuel (SPK ). In the FT process,
the purified syngas is processed through a fixed-bed tubular reactor where it reacts with a proprietary
catalyst to form three intermediate FT products, a Heavy Fraction FT Liquids (HFTL) product, a
Medium Fraction FT Liquids (MFTL) product and a Light Fraction FT Liquids (LFTL) product,
commonly called Naphtha. The Naphtha is recycled to the partial oxidation unit with remaining tail gas
to be reformed to hydrogen and carbon monoxide.
"Production of fully synthetic paraffinic jet fuel from wood and other biomass " BFSJ 612763 is a
project in the EU 7th Framework Programme (2007-2013) involving Swedish Biofuels.
Full scale commercial plant size was estimated to be 200,000 ton/y of motor fuel, of which jet fuel
would make up 100,000 ton/y. The business plan is to deploy 3 commercial units in the 10 years
following the project, subject to market acceptance, safety and financial risks. With a good political
and economic environment, up to 600,000 t/y of advanced biofuels can be produced by 2030 using
Swedish Biofuels ATJ technology: Production is economic at various production volumes, e.g.
processing 2,500,000 m3/y of humid, low grade wood residues. A wide range of biomass suitable for
process is available. Biological fuel capacity: 30 t/y (3300 USGallons/y). Jet 14.4 t/y. Gasoline 10.5
t/y. Diesel 5.1 t/y.
A third type of biofuel is under development using municipal solid waste (MSW) as source of
Key market drivers for waste as feedstock are of various nature, here enumerated: increased scarcity
of urban landfill space and societal desire for waste diversion; Turning carbon waste into a useful
building block for the chemical and petrochemical industry; low cost, non-land using, unconventional
feedstocks for biofuels and renewable chemicals; renewable fuels mandates around the world;
consumer pull for renewable and biobased products; focus on carbon footprint and greenhouse gas
The potential for transforming garbage (estimated valued are positioned around 254 Million metric
tonnes/year in Europe) into chemicals and fuels (375 litres of cellulosic ethanol per metric tonne) is
delineated in Figure 6.2.
There are ongoing strategic alliances with EU and partners around the world, by Enerkem
biorefineries (full-scale commercial biorefinery in Edmonton, and two facilities in Quebec, Canada), a
producer of biofuels and renewable chemicals from municipal solid waste, agriculture biomass,
plastics, petcoke, biosolids from pulp and paper industry, forest biomass and wood pellet.
Enerkem has a proprietary clean technology developed in-house. The thermochemical process
converts MSW feedstock into low-carbon renewable transportation fuels including jet fuel and diesel.
Fulcrum, US, http://fulcrum-bioenergy.com/ is a pioneer in the development of a reliable and efficient
process for transforming everyday household garbage into low-carbon transportation fuels including
jet fuel and diesel. The low-cost process reduces the dependence on imported oil, create new clean
energy jobs and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional petroleum
production. Fulcrum has established industrial partnership with US Renewables Group and Rustic
Canyon Partners, two leading venture capital firms in the clean energy space. In addition, Waste
Management and Cathay Pacific Airways have become equity partners in the Company. Fulcrum
ThermoChem Recovery International has licensed to Fulcrum their highly efficient and economic
gasification system for the conversion of the carbon rich residues into synthetic gas (syngas) (Figure
6.3). During the gasification process, the prepared MSW feedstock rapidly heats up upon entry into
the steam-reforming gasifier and almost immediately converts to syngas. The syngas is further cooled
in a packed gas cooler scrubber. The cleaned syngas is then processed through an amine system to
capture and remove sulfur and carbon dioxide. The syngas then enters the secondary gas clean-up
section that contains compression to increase syngas to the pressure required by the FT process.
The syngas is catalytically converted, thus synthesing the renewable fuel constituents.
Utilizing this transformation process, municipalities will be able to convert the garbage into 30 million
gallons per year of clean renewable fuel. A number of facilities are under construction across North
America with the annual capacity to produce hundreds of millions of gallons of renewable
transportation fuel while eliminating trash landfilled annually across North America.
In 2015 Fulcrum announced that it had awarded an engineering, procurement and construction
contract to Abengoa for the construction of the Sierra BioFuels waste to transportation fuels plant.
Abengoa will construct Sierra under the fixed-priced contract that also includes cost, schedule and
plant performance guarantees.
In US, United Airlines (UA) has announced the first stable use in the tract from Los Angeles-San
Francisco, by as new jet fuelled with bio-kerosene. The required amount of fuel at this stage is 180
million litres each year. In the agreement with UA, Fulcrum will transform Municipal Solid Waste
(MSW), cooked oils and fats derived from animal wastes to produce a biofuel that will be blended with
6.3.2. Biokerosene deployment and sustainability issues
Noteworthy, biofuel policies increase demand for agricultural land use. The macroeconomy and the
population growth increase the demand for food and consequently imply an agricultural land use
expansion, mitigated by yields growth and conversion of managed forests, or other natural, non-
agricultural ecosystems into agriculture.
Aviation Climate Change Commitments are exemplified in Figure 4. There are several targets to be
accomplished, such as an improvement of 1.5% fuel efficiency per year from 2009 to 2020; a Carbon
neutral growth from 2020; a reduction of net emissions by 50% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.
Air transport moves over 2.4 billion passengers annually, dumping 677 million tons of carbon dioxide
into the atmosphere. While these emissions are small compared with other industry sectors, these
industries have viable alternative energy sources. The power generation industry can look to wind,
hydro, nuclear and solar technologies to make electricity without producing much CO2. Cars and
buses can run on hybrid, flexible fuel engines or electricity. The primary objective of using biofuel is to
reduce emissions. Carbon Dioxide absorbed by plants during its growth is roughly equivalent to the
amount of carbon produced when the fuel is burned. This would allow biofuel to be carbon neutral
over its life cycle. http://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/topics/renewable-energy
Since 2001, a rapid grow of biofuel production has been observed driven by Renewable Energy
Directives (RED) and high crude oil prices as well as by growing interest in reducing Greenhouse-
Gas-Emissions (GHG). Considering the CO2 emission at 2005, and the projections estimated up to
2050, there are very few options to reduce the level of GHG emissions, from a “No action”,
determining the doubling of GHG emissions, to a “carbon neutral” growth, to a net emission trajectory
with a reduction of 50% by 2050 adopting economic measures such as substitution of aviation fuel
GHG emission by using increasing amounts of renewable fuels (Figure 6.4).
However, deforestation to provide more land for agriculture and to provide lignocellulose poses a
great treat to climate change, since it contributes to 25% up to 50% of GHG increase. Blocking
deforestation by all means is important, since deforestation has an impact on CO2 emission greater
than all the GHG produced by fuel use around the world.
The EU position on agricultural land use for biofuels. Since 2009 version of RED, EU posed some
limits on use of agricultural lands for biofuels, in agreement with the alarm launched by Reducing
Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD, Bali, 2007), a set of recommendations
designed to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation and forest degradation
(Myers 2007; van Meijl et al., 2007).
Focus was on controlling effects of direct land use change, like preventing conversion of rain forests,
peat land or biodiverse areas; Growth of feedstock on agricultural land was not considered a problem.
Since2007, major currents of thought opposing the RED initiative are focusing on the debate on
indirect land use change (ILUC); and the maizification problem, the high demand of maize cropping
for alternative energies and feed use instead of use of agriculture land for food production (Nowicki et
al. 2007). Revision of RED has been carried on to set up new rules: Contribution from cereals, sugars
and oil crops grown as main crops primarily for energy purposes on agricultural land has been limited
to 7% of transport energy use. Cellulosic material (e.g. short rotation coppice, switchgrass) is now
supported. Typically, the feedstock plants grow on marginal or degraded lands, so are not expected
to be used on agricultural lands, avoiding ILUC issue.
Expectation is that new RED will support use of lignocellulosic material as feedstock; it will sustain
biofuel produced on marginal land, devoid of conflict with sustainability definitions. The US Energy
Independence and Security Act requires that feedstock crops used for biofuel be harvested from
agricultural land cleared or cultivated prior to December 2007. The intention was to protect non-
agricultural areas from direct land-use change. Currently there are no binding sustainability
requirements in place in Canada and other countries not adhering to RED.
Resource Technology Strength. Bioenergy and advanced biofuel investments are constantly
progressing. European production technology has shown to be a critical component of new plants
outside Europe. EU technology providers are present in these investments. Therefore, EU technology
base continues to be very strong. However, European production capacity planning and investments
remain weak, and regulatory uncertainties remain.
The European Biofuels FlightPath Initiative (EBFPI) and the European Biofuels Technology Platform
(EBTP). The EU Commission has launched the EBFPI with the objective to reach the target of using 2
MTons of Aviation BioFuels in 2020, corresponding to about 4% of EU fuel consumption. By 2015,
EBFPI will set-up financial mechanisms, secure sustainable feedstock production to feed 3 refineries,
and construct 3 new refineries and launch Biofuel production. By 2018, EBFPI will start regular
commercial flights using bio-jet fuel blends, construct 4 additional refineries, and construct 2
additional refineries producing algal & microbial oil based aviation Biofuels. By 2020, a full
deployment of at least 2 million tons of biofuels per annum for EU aviation is envisaged.
In the US, Boeing has partnered up with other stakeholders to promote “Farm to Fly” biofuel programs
that includes the Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiative (MASBI) along with United Airlines,
UOP (a Honeywell company), the Airlines for America (A4A) Inc., the Chicago Department of
Aviation, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Clean Energy Trust.
The US National Bioeconomy Blueprint is designed to create jobs and stimulate investment by using
federal resources to speed the transition from fossil fuel dependency into a more sustainable,
healthful and diversified mix of fuels, chemicals and other products.
Boeing has been looking for partners at various levels, including fuel from plants grown in the desert
using saltwater, and it is optimistic that a range of bio-kerosene promising to be both cleaner than
standard fuels and with a greater energy density — essentially offering more power for less weight, a
crucial property for aviation — soon will be certified for aviation use.
Currently, these alternative fuels for transport are marketed by Neste Oil and by ENI. In 2014, Neste
Oil produced approximately 1.3 million tonnes (1.6 billion litres) of renewable NEXBTL diesel from
waste and residues. There is a big potential for aviation since three refineries in function, one in Italy,
one in Rotterdam and one near Helsinki currently produce around 4 billion liters of bio-kerosene. This
amount for aviation corresponds to 2 percent of fuels use globally.
Boeing Airlines have conducted more than 1,500 passenger ights using biofuel since
the fuel was approved in 2011. Alternative aviation biofuel reduces carbon emissions by
50 to 80 percent compared to petroleum jet fuel through its life cycle.
South African Airways (SAS) is partnering with Boeing aerospace company and Amsterdam-based
SkyNRG to make sustainable aviation biofuel from a new type of tobacco devoid of nicotine, the
Solaris variety “energy tobacco”, in a pioneering project that could make aviation more environment-
friendly while advancing rural development in southern Africa. SAA says that the cost of the tobacco--
based product matches that of jet fuel refined from fossil sources. SAS airline expects to use 20
Million litres of jet biofuel by the end of 2017, blended 5050 with conventional fuel, and 500 Million
litres by the end of 2022. SkyNRG’s mission is to create structural supply and demand for sustainable
and affordable jet fuels. It’s executing this mission short term via co-funded green routes (like AMS-
JFK) and long term via developing regional supply chains that represent a real affordable alternative
for fossil fuels, called BioPorts. The company is working with fuel technology partners to create the
best fit for a region in the world. SkyNRG is the world market leader for sustainable jet fuel, having
supplied more than 20 carriers worldwide. Since 2011 the company is expanding into the marine and
heavy trucking segment as well. These segments, like aviation, have no other alternative than to use
sustainable fuels to significantly reduce their carbon footprint.
The civil aviation approach to certification. Aircrafts can only use fuel they are certified to use.
Approval of a new fuel with new properties would require individual certification of all and every
aircraft on this fuel, making this prohibitively expensive. Rather than certify all aircrafts as compatible
with a new fuel, the new fuel would be approved as being compatible with existing Jet A and Jet A-1
fuel. Appropriate blends with approved fuel can then be used by every civil aircraft approved to use
Jet A and jet A-1 fuel. By agreement with European authorities, approval process is coordinated by
US standards body ASTM, referring to relevant specification such as ASTM D7566. This defines
required properties of blends of conventional (ASTM D1655) kerosene and synthetic material. The
specification annexes define required properties of the neat synthetic fuels (currently three), Fischer-
Tropsch (FT) with maximum blend ratio 50%; Hydrotreated Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) with
maximum blend ratio 50%; Farnesane (SIP) with maximum blend ratio 10%. Fuel meeting ASTM
D7566 by definition becomes ASTM D1655 kerosene, and can use the same infrastructure as
conventional fuel. In North America, no paper trail for synthetic component is required. Physical
traceability will soon be lost in North American pipeline systems. In Europe, documentation of
synthetic percentage is still required, but generic.
Implications for biokerosene. In case of aviation kerosene, registered substance is defined as ‘‘being
produced from crude oil sources‘‘. Kerosene not produced from crude oil still needs a separate
registration. This makes the process expensive and time-consuming, costing several 100,000 Euros.
Full registration of bio kerosene so far has only been performed by Neste Oil, for HEFA.
Whereas ASTM D7566 conforming blends are within the experience base for conventional kerosene,
the synthetic components are dissimilar. Main components of conventional kerosene are n- and iso-
alkanes, cycloalkanes and aromatics. HEFA- and FT-kerosene consist almost solely of n- and iso-
alkanes. Other pathways currently up for approval produce fuel solely consisting of aromatics, fuel
consisting of cycloalkanes and aromatics, or even fully synthetic fuel containing all main components
of conventional kerosene (SIP kerosene is an extreme case, consisting solely of C15 iso-alkanes).
In the aviation approach, blend is the key unit. Certification is released on the basis of blend
properties, that Need to be within experience base for conventional kerosene. If D7566 conditions are
met, blend by definition becomes D1566 fuel. Information of synthetic component is completely lost
(US) or only generically preserved (Europe). Properties of individual blend components are defined
only for quality control purposes. The rationale is that only the blend will ever end up in an aircraft.
The European Chemical Agency (ECHA) point of view. All chemical substances produced in or
imported into Europe need to be registered at ECHA. In case of blends of two or more substances, all
individual substances of the blend need to be ECHA-registered. Registration is by producer and/or
importer. In principle, every producer / importer must undertake individual application, proving own
data for substance properties and safety for human and environment. For chemically identical
substances, co-registration with already registered substances is required. The regulation requires
payment of co-registration fee to previous registrants, to defray their initial costs. However, identity of
substances is dependent on definition in registration consortia and acceptance by ECHA. The ECHA
approach defines individual blend components as the key units. All components must be registered.
The properties of individual components are relevant for registration. The rationale is that all
information must be available for the regulator. The workers or the environment might potentially be
exposed to the neat synthetic component (e.g. when blending). This raises two issues. The first issue
is the potential impact on trading kerosene. As synthetic fuel is increasingly produced worldwide, it
will join fossil kerosene distribution networks. Synthetic fuel may quite possibly not be ECHA-
registered, if not produced for European market However, non-registered blend component may
physically be present in kerosene imported into Europe, as information on synthetic content is generic
or lost. This is a violation of EU laws. The second issue is the potential multitude of registrations. The
number of pathways and producers are currently increasing almost exponentially. Even for
fundamentally same pathways (e.g. ATJ) exact approaches of producers are different, resulting in
different proportions of kerosene components, and hence in non-identical synthetic fuels. This may
potentially require for each constituent to be registered individually. This translates in a duplication of
work and costs.
Military certification constrains. ASTM approval of a synthetic fuel means that blend with synthetic fuel
conforming to specification is considered Jet A / Jet A-1 fuel, can be used by any civil aircraft certified
for use of Jet A / Jet A-1, and is accepted both within North America and Europe. This, however, does
not imply certification for military use. Military is using its own fuel specifications. Military equivalent to
Jet A-1 exists (JP-8), and NATO aircraft are qualified on it. However, changes to ASTM specification
do not automatically cross-read to military specification. Military make use of various additives not
present in civil used fuels. They have different operational requirements (e.g. afterburner), while
principal requirement is a single fuel policy, i.e. fuel must also be suitable for tanks and trucks.
Separate military certification is currently required, while no central coordination of synthetic fuel
approval within NATO is present.
Approval is performed by military authorities of individual nations. US Armed Forces have introduced
advanced regulatory rules, so that FT- and HEFA-kerosene have been approved for all military
equipment. In other NATO members, a different certification is presently required. Some (e.g.
Sweden) also well engaged, though less experienced, while other states have barely started. The
tendency is to approve equipment for the use of fuel, not to approve the fuel. The authorities request
the manufacturer of equipment to make the approval. Often the national producer is not involved in
international fuel certification efforts. These factors have adverse effect on interoperability. Military
infrastructure is intended to be for all NATO partners. US Armed forces increasingly move to include
blends with synthetic material in their fuel supply. This creates an issue for NATO partners using US
infrastructure. The current situation is already affecting joint exercises in the US.
Another issue to be solved is the closure of European military infrastructures for synthetic fuels.
European Dual-Use (civil and military) infrastructures cannot be used for synthetic fuels. This closure
also affects fuel farms of dual-use airports, causing logistical issues for synthetic fuels.
6.4.1. Bioeconomics of tobacco seeds oil for aircraft fuel. Energy Tobacco variety Solaris
Solaris is a nicotine and GMO free crop variety that yields significant amounts of sustainable oil (as
feedstock for bio jet fuel) and high quality animal feed (http://www.projectsolaris.co.za/).
In 2002, Prof. Corrado Fogher and his research team at Plantechno carried out a careful work of
research and development aimed at creating a variety of tobacco suitable for energy applications
characterized by high seed and biomass production and negligible amounts of nicotine. Prof. Fogher
did several lab tests in order to proof the scientific concept on a new, stable variety of energy tobacco
“Energy Tobacco” Solaris variety, GMO free, has been registered at the Minister of Agriculture of Italy
with the patent RM2007A000129 in 2007. In 2008, Prof. Corrado Fogher and a group of industrial
partners started Sunchem, and deposited on an international level the new industrial patent “Energy
Tobacco” (international patent PCT/IB/2007/053412). Patent has been already granted in 38
countries, among which: USA, South Africa, West Africa countries, EuroAsia, among others.
The industrial patent covers the following claims: A group of claims covers the mutagenised tobacco
plant characterised in that it has a much higher seed production than the average seed production of
the currently existing tobacco plants. A second group claims the use of the plants for the production of
seeds for the production of the products indicated in the patent: fuel, supplements, oil, oil cakes, etc.
A third group claims the production method of the plant, therefore they also protect the necessary
procedure to create the desired plants, at least in the methods. A fourth group protects the seeds of
the plant, their use for producing tobacco oil, fuel oils, biodiesel, animal food supplements, solid fuels
and dietary supplements. A fifth group protects the oil extraction method from tobacco seeds wherein
the oil yield is equal to between 70 and 95% of the oil through the pressing step and any other steps.
A sixth group covers the tobacco seed oil that can be obtained with the extraction method according
to previous claims characterized in that it has an iodine level of less than or equal to 120.
The tobacco plants for energy applications, contrary to the tobacco for the cigarettes industry,
maximize the production of flowers and seeds to the detriment of the leaves production, and biomass
for biogas production. The variety is extremely robust, able to grow in various climates and soils and
can be cultivated on marginal lands which cannot be used for food production.
Plants have been followed throughout development and various parameters recorded. Inflorescences
from the most productive plants have been collected and evaluated. The plants have been then
bagged for self impollination. The rest of the plants were cleared out.
Various lines of tobacco have been grown to either select highly productive and stable Solaris lines or
to evaluate their characteristics to continue the breeding of new varieties. Tests on sites with different
soil characteristics (clay and sandy) have been performed where plants from the following lines are
being grown and their development and yields followed carefully:
Selection of tobacco lines in 2013-2015
• Lines N1, N2 and N3: Three Solaris lines, selected in 2012 for producing between 700 and 900g of
seed over two harvests, were chosen as the starting point for the selection of very productive plants in
ideal conditions of minimal competition. Between 280 and 300 plants per line were transplanted in
• Lines A1, A2 and A3: Three lines originated with a intra-specific cross aiming at increasing oil
• Lines Ca and Cb: Lines originated with a intra-specific cross between high-yield seed varieties
• Line PN1S25 produced 1059 capsules, 229g seed
• Lines II1 and II17: Lines originated with a Inter-specific cross using wild species, and colchicine
treatment (polyploidisation). Their phenotype has been evaluated under field conditions
• Line G1: Tobacco line from Plantechno’s germplasm, characterized by extremely large capsules.
• Line PLT103: A tobacco variety originally used in the crosses that were undertaken in the generation
of the Solaris variety. Grown for comparison with the different lines grown this year
• Line O1: Early variant of Solaris obtained in 2007. Grown for comparison with the different lines
grown this year
• Lines PLTA4, PLTA56, PLTA60, PLTA61, PLTA65 and PLTA88: germplasm lines grown to evaluate
their phenotype under field conditions. Data from past years cropping confirmed high seed
The content in fatty acids of some of the tobacco varieties selected is shown in Table 6.1. The table
shows new varieties and their hybrids, including plants obtained with mutagenesis and the genetic
intervention carried out by introducing some of the fatty acids biosynthesis genes in order to change
the acidic composition; the oil of the three last columns has a iodine title suitable for the transformation
of said oil into biodiesel.
Ongoing research at Plantechno.
Seed specific over-expression and expression of carefully designed RNA interference (RNAi)
constructs to increase and decrease the activity of genes involved in TGAs biosynthesis to boost oil
production or modify its composition. Over 20 constructs were obtained and transformed into Solaris
tobacco. Analysis of oil composition has started for T1 seeds obtained from some of these lines.
Some high oleic-lower linoleic varieties and some with lower palmitic acid and higher oleic acid were
obtained . Effect on seed oil in stable homozygous lines are expected even higher.
Line 72 produced an oil with 47.46% oleic acid, 41.11% linoleic acid. Some high oleic-lower linoleic
varieties and some with lower palmitic acid and higher oleic acid were obtained . In an homozygous
line generated after crossing line 72 and line 92, Plantechno researchers obtained seed oil with a
composition in oleic acid of about 64% and 29% for linoleic acid. The TSO shows a high gross
calorific value, low sulphur content, the low viscosity when compared to other vegetable oils (See
The composition of this modified oil not only should grant it a higher resistance to oxidation (even
without need to addition antioxidants, but is also well balanced to produce a more valuable winter
biodiesel in accordance with the latest UNI standards for biodiesel
It is also envisaged the use of TSO in the production of liquid or solid fuels, biodiesel, industrial
lubricants, plastic materials such as linoleum, dietary supplements for animal feeds, dietary
supplements for human use.
6.4.2. Sustainability of production and exploitation of Solaris tobacco. Protein cake as feed
Based on the market analysis Sunchem Holding decided in 2009 a strategic partnership involving
medium-large companies operating in the oil/fuel processing and distribution field (Seasif Holding,
Alphatrading Spa – Italy, Argos oil Ltd –Holland, Diester Group – France, etc., Terasol LLC and M&V
Consultacoes Brazil). Sunchem Holding holds the exclusive rights to the employment and
development on an international scale of the industrial patent “Solaris”. Since 2009, Sunchem Holding
concentrated its efforts on research on tobacco plants for biofuels. In Agro operations, Solaris project
deals with seeding production, planting, fertilizing, harvesting, processing and transport. For these
operations Sunchem is involved in both commercial and community farming.
Sunchem has made alliance with SkyNRG and South Africa Airlines (SAA) for the exploitation of
Solaris. SkyNRG expanded production of the hybrid Solaris as an energy crop that farmers could
grow instead of traditional tobacco. South African Airways (SAA), Boeing and SkyNRG, are
developing fuel based on the oil from seeds of tobacco. The specially bred Solaris strain of tobacco is
nicotine-free, with high number of seeds produced, and big inflorescences (Figure 6.5).
SAS and SkyNRG companies have teamed up for a pilot project that has seen about 50 hectares in
Limpopo province planted with energy tobacco Solaris plants, in a sustainable production of TSO and
other valuable by-products (biomass, oil cake feedstock). Project Solaris is a pilot for this small holder
program. Solaris is a crop and crops needs some level of irrigation, fertilizer, pesticides and other
inputs. The fields are grown by hard-up farmers, who gain two cash crops a year from the tobacco,
and then have money for seeds and fertiliser for a third food crop. The seeds’ residue becomes
animal feed. From 1 hectare cultivation of Energy Tobacco it is possible to obtain an average of seed
production from 4 to 10 tonnes, with multiple harvests per year (based on climate condition). Seed
contains around 40% of oil that, by cold press extraction, gives 33-34% of raw oil and 65% of protein
cake. The cost of the tobacco-based product matches that of jet fuel refined from fossil sources
The seed cake is rich in protein. These properties are essential when considering the applications of
the oil which range from the fuel industry to pharmaceuticals. The by-products such as seed cake can
be used as stock feeds in livestock nutrition. The research can also be diversified using cheaper and
non-toxic methods such as oil press machines for extractions, designing of reactors for large scale
extraction and purification of the oil and also the economics part, where there is need to conduct cost
benefit analysis and identifying the markets. After threshing the inflorescence to obtain seed, dry
biomass represents another valuable product. Therefore, the economy of Solaris plants are made of:
Crude Oil (energy production, biodiesel, niche market and jet fuel for aviation); Oil-cake (animal feet
because of a good pro-fat mix); Fresh and dry biomass (electricity, biogas).
The value added of energy tobacco are: it is a non-food crop (but edible due to the cake), it has high
sustainability criteria, it shows flexibility in different climatic conditions.
Regarding the high yield productivity it is possible to count on profit margin along the value chain:
from agriculture to industrial phase and market
Biofuels plantations have been blamed for deforestation and other land-use change. Campaigns have
been raised to warn about the problems in case airlines will demand larger quantities of alternative
fuels. In South Africa this is not a problem since about 14 percent of the arable land is under-utilized
or unutilized. If just a small percentage of that 14 percent were used for Solaris or other similar
feedstocks, this would provide enough fuel for all of SAA's needs (Figure 6.7).
It will not displace essential food crops and will not affect total land footprint to produce the fuel
quantity needed by SAA.
Solaris based jet fuel will meet Roundtable and Sustainable Materials (RSB) minimum CO2 life cycle
reduction threshold of 50%, and when produced in an optimized supply chain set up savings are
expected to reach 75%, compared to fossil jet fuel.
Roundtable of Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB). The RSB is a multi-stakeholder organisation that has
developed global sustainability standard and certification scheme for biomaterials including biofuels
and biomass. Through third-party certification RSB verifies the sustainability of biofuel operations
according to environmental and social principles. RSB is widely recognised as the most robust scheme
for ensuring sustainability and is especially strong in ensuring that operations promote rural
development and enhance food security at local level. The global aviation industry, including Boeing
and South African Airways are committed to using only RSB-certified biofuels.
Taking the product to the final customers, Solaris based jet fuel has met RSB’s minimum CO 2 life
cycle reduction threshold of 50%, and when produced in an optimized supply chain set up savings are
expected to reach 75%, compared to fossil jet fuel. Project Solaris is currently undergoing RSB
certification starting with an initial 50 hectares which has been audited in May 2015. As Project Solaris
grows additional farms and processing plants will undergo RSB certification. Through certification it is
shown that the end products of Solaris not only reduce carbon emissions, but also improve the
livelihoods of the communities in the Limpopo Province. RSB certification is being supported by a
smallholder program initiated by Boeing, South African Airways and RSB. These partners launched a
program in March 2014 to expand opportunities for smallholder farmers in Southern Africa to grow
crops that produce sustainable fuels. This program is set up to help farmers with small plots of land to
certify their product and gain access to markets for sustainable biofuels and biomaterials.
The development of Solaris production in South Africa can offer the following socio-economic and
environmental benefits: Increased land productivity (additional biomass production and increased land
use efficiency); Development rural economies and job creation; Education and enablement of regional
communities; Agro innovation & knowledge transfer; Shift from fossil to renewable energy sources (e.g.
diversification energy sources, energy security); Displacement/substitution of less appealing industries
(e.g. traditional tobacco industry), Greenhouse gas reductions.
Sustainable biofuel technologies have a key role to play in an energy-efficient, decarbonised transport
sector around the world, to provide reduced GHG emissions and energy dependency. Several
workshops and conferences are planned for the 2015 and 2016, covering the state-of-the-art in a
diversity of topics from microbial hydrocarbon production and lignocellulosic ethanol to sustainability
and policy. The 7th EBTP Stakeholder Plenary Meeting SPM7 will take place in Brussels in the first
quarter of 2016. Meanwhile, the EBTP continues to work closely with the EC and stakeholders in all
Member States to accelerate the deployment of innovative, sustainable biofuels technologies. In the
tobacco model plant, advances have shown the feasibility to produce alternative jet fuel from tobacco
seeds using the non-genetically modified Solaris variety and exploiting the byproducts (biomass,
oilcake) for a sustainable bioeconomy. Additionally, novel hybrids and more productive varieties will be
introduced to large scale field cultivation for implementing the production of biofuels.
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TABLE 6.1. Content in fatty acids of some energy tobacco varieties. Varieties and hybrids were
selected after mutagenesis, or engineered and selected in order to change the fatty acids metabolic
pathway, and selected for the stability of the character.
TABLE 6.2 Characteristics of the tobacco oil obtained by pressing the seed and filtering.
Figure 6.1. Feedstock biomass options for production of ethanol, fuels and valuable chemicals.
Figure 6.2. Prospects of transformation of Municipal Solid Wastes in Europe into ethanol and fuels.
Figure 6.3. Scheme of production of biofuels and chemicals starting from Municipal Solid Wastes.
Figure 6.4. Diagram of CO2 emissions between 2005 and 2050. The graphic shows the evolution of
GHG emission under two contrasting economic measures and policies: No action, and carbon neutral
growth: by 2050 a net aviation carbon emission trajectory will reach a -50% reduction.
Figure 6.5. Comparison of Solaris variety (left) inflorescence size with that of control tobacco (right).
The differences in size of inflorescences and seed content establish Solaris as a variety producing
high quantity of tobacco seed oil.
Figure 6.6. Solaris plants from Genetics to Market (G2M) flow. From research to agronomy studies, to
process management, added value services, to market.
Figure 6.7. Tobacco seed oil from Solaris plants. Supply chain overview and flow chart of processes
to obtain biofuel.