Aviation fuel from aquaculture

Construction has started on an integrated seawater, energy and agriculture facility at Masdar City, Abu Dhabi.

Officials have said that the demonstration project will use desert land irrigated by seawater to sustainably produce biofuel, bio-chemicals and food. The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology’s Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC) facility is expected to be completed before the end of 2015.

The 20,000 square-meter bioenergy pilot facility will include saltwater aquaculture ponds where fish and shrimp will be grown. Water from the ponds, including nutrient-rich waste produced by these fish, will be used to irrigate and fertilize salt-tolerant halophyte plants that will then be harvested and turned into aviation biofuel and other products. Flowing from the halophyte fields, the seawater will also nourish a wetland planted with mangroves – a plant that serves as a natural carbon sink to absorb carbon dioxide from the air.

The pilot project is intended to run for three to five years, allowing researchers to learn more about the optimal operations and conditions to support the scalable production of bioenergy.

Dr. Moavenzadeh, President, Masdar Institute, said, “The UAE and the world need renewable and sustainable fuels. That is why Masdar Institute is proud to be leading the SBRC and launching the Integrated Seawater Energy and Agriculture System, which is more than an aviation biofuel production facility; it represents a holistic approach to sustainably produce food and bioenergy in a way that does not compete with fresh water and arable land. We are pleased to begin construction of the world’s first integrated seawater bioenergy pilot plant – a truly innovative project to mark the UAE’s Year of Innovation.”

The aviation sector currently accounts for approximately 2% of total atmospheric carbon emissions. Providing a renewable and low-carbon alternative to traditional aviation fuel through the production of sustainable and scalable biomass can help the UAE reduce its contribution to global climate change and help shrink its ecological footprint.

The Masdar Institute is a non-profit consortium supported by founding members Etihad Airways, Boeing, and Honeywell UOP, as well as more recent members Takreer, Safran and General Electric.

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