The first crop of Salicornia grown at the site of the Seawater Energy and Agriculture System (SEAS) pilot in Masdar City was harvested recently by the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology’s Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC), as revealed by a recent press release.
The oil-rich Salicornia being grown as part of the pilot project — which is being supported by Etihad Airways, Boeing, Takreer, Safran, and General Electric — is being used to produce aviation biofuel as part of a mixed fish/shrimp aquaculture project based around the use of brackish water or seawater.
The news represents an important milestone in the life of the project — which aims to begin producing “sustainable” jet fuel for the local aviation industry.
To explain a bit more here, Salicornia is an oil-rich plant that is highly salt-tolerant and can be used as feedstock in biofuels production. The plant is now being grown at a 2-hectare SEAS pilot facility in Masdar City for that purpose with the effluent from an aquaculture project growing fish and shrimp.
CleanTechnica actually broke the news about this biofuel possibility back in 2014, and has since landed a few exclusives regarding the progress. See:
Boeing Biofuel Breakthrough — This Is A BIG Deal (Interview With Boeing’s Biofuel Director)
Breakthrough Halophyte Biofuel & The Failure Of Tar Sands Oil
Aquaculture Meets Biofuel For Food Security In UAE (CleanTechnica Exclusive Interview)
Boeing, Etihad Airways, Masdar Institute Halophyte Biofuel Update (Exclusive Videos)
The press release provides more on the latest news: “In February 2018 the clean Salicornia oil is to be processed at the Takreer Research Center for conversion into aviation biofuel. Once the process is complete, the biofuel will be mixed at low concentration with regular jet fuel to power a flight by Etihad Airways on a Boeing aircraft.
“…The SEAS pilot facility has six aquaculture units that use seawater to raise fish and shrimp. The fish farm produces a nutrient-rich effluent, which is directed into the halophyte fields where it fertilizes the oil-rich Salicornia plants. The leftover effluent from the process is then diverted into the cultivated mangrove forests, which further purify the water and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while sheltering fish nurseries that live around their underwater roots.”
Simply put, the idea behind the project is to simultaneously produce food while not wasting scarce freshwater resources while also producing biofuel feedstock to be used to offset the use of limited and valuable fossil fuel reserves.
The Interim Executive Vice President for Research, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, Dr Steve Griffiths, commented on the news: “In achieving this key milestone, the SBRC is closer to establishing a truly sustainable model for aviation fuel production using only our local resources. The success of the SEAS pilot facility, and the collaborative research effort that has supported it, exemplifies our commitment to providing sustainable solutions to the UAE’s food security and energy needs.”
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