Abu Dhabi studies plants to make biofuel

The biofuel production is one element of the R&D project, which has brought together aviation industry leaders who want to develop it at Masdar City, in the capital.



By Haseeb Haider

Published: Fri 12 Jun 2015, 11:09 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:17 PM

A biofuel demonstration flight was operated in Abu Dhabi last year using an Etihad Airways Boeing 777 aircraft. Supplied photo
A biofuel demonstration flight was operated in Abu Dhabi last year using an Etihad Airways Boeing 777 aircraft. Supplied photo

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi will be home to a research and development centre where seawater will be used to grow fish, shrimp besides halophyte plants to obtain feedstock to make biofuel and bio-chemicals.

The integrated Seawater Energy and Agriculture System or ISEAS has been launched by Abu Dhabi Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in collaboration with Etihad Airways, plane-maker Boeing, UOP Honey well, GE, and oil refining company Takreer, which will open opportunities to develop food, bio-mass, bio-fuel, bio-chemicals and new materials on industrial scales.

The biofuel production is one element of the R&D project, which has brought together aviation industry leaders who want to develop it at Masdar City, in the capital.

Dr Alejandro Rios director of sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium, a non-profit project, in a presentation at Masdar City on Thursday, shared the concept on the project. He said that it’s an effort to develop a novel form of agriculture, producing food and energy products on traditionally non-arable desert land irrigated with seawater.

With the capacity to use seawater that comprises 97 per cent of the world’s water supply, ISEAS has potentially high sustainability potentials in a water-constrained region, he said.

In Suwaihan about 50-kilometers in east from Abu Dhabi city, in collaboration with the UAE University, Salicornia plantations are being done which will be irrigated by seawater. The plant, which has not been domesticated as yet yields 2-3 metric tonnes per hector of oil seeds. The project will see using modern techniques to increase the per hector yield many times.

At Masdar City, under the ISEAS pilot project an experimental facility will be setup which will have six aquaculture farms, where seawater will be used to grow fish, shrimps to be partly fed by meal from halophyte, plants that love saltwater.

Eight fields would be part of the project where different varieties of the slat tolerant plants will be grown on nutrient-rich discharge water from aquaculture ponds. It would produce oil and cellulosic fuel feedstocks, animal feed and high-value chemicals.

The purpose behind the pilot project is to understand the inter-relationship between the different sub-systems, in this overall integrated seawater system, said director of SBRC.

He said that the biofuel project was launched before in Mexico and Eretria but was dropped due to some reasons.

The project would open opportunities to produce biofuel which would be cost effective as well as help to cut carbon emissions.

Aviation emits two per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

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

haseeb@khaleejtimes.com


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