Is the UAE about to kick the oil habit?
The UAE is planning to become a world leader in biofuels from the algae industry by 2020, joining major countries which have already started practical steps in producing energy and biofuels from the algae industry.
Algae will become a source of biofuels used in car and aircraft engines as the cost of this type of fuel will be competitive in future whereas the UAE has the potential to become a leader in biofuels from the algae industry.
Dr Hector H. Hernandez, Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering programme, Masdar Institute, said: “The algae available in the UAE desert is unique because it is local to the UAE and can withstand major changes in temperature. It can also live under high salinity ranges, one of the âhighest’ to date of any algae species, and can be used throughout the year, offering a long harvesting season. Algae from the UAE and from deserts are a very new area of research and we are still working with industrial partners to identify the upper limit of how much algae we can grow in the UAE.”
Algae do not depend on being grown in the ocean. In fact, in the UAE, there is the ability to use non-habitable land, such as the desert in the Western Region, for algae growth. As such, a properly designed and constructed algae growth facility will not have an impact on the marine ecosystem of the Arabian Gulf, he added.
In the biofuels-from-algae market, the UAE is uniquely positioned to make a strong impact whereas the native algae have evolved to grow under a wide range of temperatures and salinities and the production of biofuels using these strains of algae are not expected to compete with the fresh water supply or with food production in the UAE, Dr Hernandez said.
The development of the algae-for-biofuels industry can be used to supplement the growth of the aquaculture industry in the UAE. These, and other special traits, make the UAE an ideal place to develop a world class and internationally competitive algae for biofuels industry.
“The UAE also has the potential to become a world leader in the biofuels from algae industry. Not only is there the potential for biofuels export, but the establishment of this industry in the UAE will create a unique knowledge base for algae growth that will allow the UAE to also export the necessary know-how to help implement this industry in other parts the world,” Dr Hernandez added.