Just begun is a study on the use of saltwater-based plants for renewable jet fuel.
The study is being commissioned as part of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group consortium. The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi will lead the study, which will examine the overall potential for sustainable, large-scale production of biofuels made from salicornia bigelovii and saltwater mangroves — plants known as halophytes. Yale University’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Honeywell’s UOP will also participate in the analysis, which will include an assessment of the total carbon lifecycle of biofuels. Boeing is also involved in the study.
Halophytes can be highly productive sources of biomass energy, thrive in arid land and can be irrigated with sea water, making them suitable for biofuel development, according to researchers. With improved plant science and agronomy, early testing results indicate that halophytes have the potential to deliver very high yields per unit of land.
“Boeing and the scientific and academic communities are stepping forward to look at the totality of each renewable fuel source that can help us reduce carbon emissions,” said Billy Glover, managing director of Environmental Strategy for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “By working with Masdar Institute to look at these species in a formal research framework, we will better know if certain types of halophytes meet the carbon reduction and socioeconomic criteria that will allow them to become part of a portfolio of sustainable biofuel solutions for aviation.”
The Government of Abu Dhabi founded the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology to research and develop alternative energy and sustainable technologies. Masdar Institute is an independent, non-profit, research-driven graduate institution established with the support and cooperation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The halophyte study will evaluate aquaculture management and practices, land use and energy requirements and identify any potential adverse ecological or social impacts associated with using halophytes for energy development, specifically for aviation biofuel development.
The results are expected to be available in late 2010.