From Abu Dhabi, a marvelous breakthrough! Researchers are developing halophytes, plants that grow in salt water, for biofuel.
Biofuels are on the verge of a breakthrough that will transform the oil market. Not only that: it will also green the planet.
In 2008, Boeing and others set up the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG) of which by now a-third of all airlines are members of.
“Twenty per cent of the world’s land is either desert or becoming desert through overuse or mal-use”, Morgan notes. “And 97% of the world’s water is salt water. So if you can use those two factors that turns the scarcity problem that plagues all biofuels on its head.”
“What the scientists here have found”, he adds, “is that the halophytic family tends to be low in lignin and high in the right type of sugars, which can be converted into hydrocarbons. These plants tend to liberate these sugars relatively easily,...
The consortium then decided to set up a pilot production facility which is now being built in Abu Dhabi right next door to Masdar City. There is yet one more element to this to complete the story, because what the researchers decided to do in this pilot project is also unique: they decided to combine the production of biofuels from halophytes with aquaculture.
Morgan explains the reason behind this. “With the earth’s oceans increasingly being emptied of fish, aquaculture is growing fast all over the world. The problem with aquaculture, however, is the waste it produces. This goes right into the ocean and creates a lot of environmental problems.” This “fish waste”, he says, is essentially a fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium suspended in salt water. “And guess what halophytes need to grow? Fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium suspended in salt water.”
Morgan expects that the two-hectare pilot facility will up and running in a year. If all goes well, they will then develop a plot of land of 500 acres in western Abu Dhabi for the initial scale-up. “After that, if the results are what we expect them to be, you will start seeing thousands and thousands of hectares being developed”. [emphasis mine]