Jet fuel from plants? Masdar to open biofuel facility in March

Published January 20th, 2016 - 01:30 GMT

A research facility to develop biofuels will be operational at Masdar City in March.

The two-hectare farm at Masdar City will experiment using seawater and organic waste to help grow native halophytes for generating biofuel, while producing fish and shrimps.

There are eight fields where Salicornia plants will be grown on nutrient-rich discharge water from aquaculture ponds, said Dr Alejandro Rios, director of the Sustainable Biofuel Research Consortium (SBRC).

The SBRC will use desert land irrigated by seawater to produce both food and aviation fuels.

The pilot project is 97 per cent complete and research will be undertaken for three years. Later, the project can be scaled up on 200 hectares for commercial scale production.

"This game-changing research places Abu Dhabi at the centre of a global movement to advance technologies to produce sustainable, commercially viable bioenergy," said Dr Behjat Al Yousuf, interim provost, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.

"Abu Dhabi's commitment to advance breakthrough research that addresses water and food security underpins the nation's transformation into a knowledge-based economy.

"Considering that 97 per cent of the world's water is salt water and about 20 per cent of the world's land is desert, this approach turns a land and water resource scarcity problem on its head," said Dr Al Yousuf.

"Already, this research is attracting significant interest from other water and arable land-constrained countries."

The research facility is a platform to explore the commercial viability and scale-up potential of an integrated, sustainable bio-energy system that produces food and fuel, without using arable land or fresh water in a desert environment. Successful development of this technology could support global food security, mitigate carbon emissions and reduce water pollution from industrial fish and shrimp aquaculture operations.

The Masdar Institute, together with Etihad Airways and The Boeing Company, founded the SBRC to advance the aviation industry's commitment to reducing its carbon emissions by developing a clean, alternative fuel supply.

The biofuel project was launched before in Eretria but was dropped due to some reasons.

The project will open opportunities to produce biofuel which is cost effective as well as helps to cut carbon emissions. Aviation emits two per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

The International Air Transport Association has agreed to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5 per cent annually until 2020, achieve carbon neutral growth by 2020 and cut net carbon emissions by 50 per cent from 2005 levels by 2050.

By Haseeb Haider


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