Case Study

Soaring to new heights with Project Reya Fofa

Sustainable fuels

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

The flights carried a total of 300 passengers from Johannesburg to Cape Town using a blend of 30 per cent aviation biofuel on Boeing 737-800s.

The historic occasion demonstrated the ability to use locally produced feedstock to develop bio-jet fuel that meets the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) standard, the highest sustainability standard for commercial aviation. It also marked the launch of Project Reya Fofa, which will introduce Solaris-based biodiesel into ground-handling operations at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

Protein and fibre will be used from the crop and integrated into catering and textile products in the aviation sector. All in all, the project will encourage an increase in feedstock production and infrastructure to achieve a fully localised value chain for a Hydro-treated Vegetable Oil (HVO) biorefinery in the coming years that will produce bio-jet fuel and green diesel.

Through Project Reya Fofa companies like Swissport will demonstrate their environmental commitment to South Africa by helping SAA to transform its fuel supply. The Royal Bafokeng Nation (RBN), the ethnic homeland of the Bafokeng community in South Africa, will also dedicate land to cultivate Solaris, while members of the RBN community will participate both in the agricultural and processing stage of the value chain.

The airline’s ultimate goal is to attain a 50 per cent fuel blend with locally and sustainably produced biofuel to become the most sustainable airline in Africa. This initiative is not only expected to lead to job creation, but also promote rural socio-economic development and support South Africa’s economy, while ensuring food security and the protection of biodiversity.

Since 2011, there have been over 270,000 commercial flights operated using sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Project Reya Fofa is among of the many SAF initiatives that will contribute towards the industry’s 2050 goal to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% of 2005 levels.