This news in from Dubai: The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Boeing [NYSE: BA], Etihad Airways and Honeywell announced at at press conference today that they will establish a major research and demo project in Abu Dhabi dedicated to sustainable energy solutions. To be called the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Project (SBRP), the project will use integrated saltwater agricultural systems to support the development and commercialization of biofuel crops for aviation and other uses.
According to the press announcement, the SBRP will undertake research projects that combine the arid and saline-rich environment of Abu Dhabi with innovative saltwater farming practices. The Masdar Institute will host the SBRP and provide laboratory and demonstration facilities both within and outside of Masdar City. Another positive reason to visit this innovative city if you get a chance.
“This project will for the first time demonstrate the commercial viability of using integrated saltwater agriculture to provide biofuels for aviation, and is consistent with the overall vision of Abu Dhabi to achieve a 7% target of renewables by 2020,” says the provost of the Masdar Institute, Dr. John Perkins.
Talk about “Airliner biofuel Wars” – Airbus just announced a biofuel project with Qatar Airways.
Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh said, “Together with the Abu Dhabi government, Etihad Airways and other industry leaders, we are forging our energy future by developing a renewable fuel supply now, not when fossil fuels are depleted. Developing and commercializing these low-carbon energy sources is the right thing for our industry, for our customers and for future generations.”
Etihad Airways’ Chief Executive Officer, James Hogan said, “The development of carbon-neutral sources of energy is of major importance to Etihad Airways and the aviation industry. We are delighted to be a key member of the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Project which will be based in Abu Dhabi and will be one of the most innovative schemes of this nature in the world.”
The SBRP team will focus on an integrated seawater agriculture systems (ISAS) approach, which is a highly efficient system for producing liquid and solid biofuels, capturing and holding carbon from the atmosphere, enlarging habitats for increasing biodiversity, and simultaneously releasing fresh water for higher value uses (drinking water, industrial use and food products). This approach, the developers say, also has the potential to reduce the impacts of sea level rise on coastal communities.
The integrated approach uses saltwater to create an aquaculture-based farming system in parallel with the growth of mangrove forests and Salicornia, a plant that thrives in salty water. These biomass sources can be sustainably harvested and used to generate clean energy, aviation biofuels and other products, they hope.
The technology of evolutionary seawater farming has been pioneered by Dr. Carl Hodges of Global Seawater Inc. (GSI), now an advisor to the project, estimated to take place over an area of around 2 km².