Plants could create renewable fuel

Boeing has announced that it will begin studying the use of saltwater-based plants for renewable jet fuel in a joint effort with UOP, a division of Honeywell.

Abu Dhabi is viewed as a viable location for conducting a lifecycle-analysis study. The researchers report that early test results indicate that halophytes have the potential to deliver very high yields per unit of land with improved plant science and agronomy.

‘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.

Sgouris Sgouridis of Masdar Institute said if the study is successful it will give the Masdar Initiative an opportunity to expand its portfolio of renewable energy technologies into biofuels that are sustainable and can be grown locally. The Masdar Initiative aims to create and sustain the world’s first carbon-neutral city, Masdar City, located on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi.

‘Masdar City will have access to important production of locally grown food and thus reduce its dependence on carbon-intensive imports,’ said Sgouridis. ‘In terms of the United Arab Emirates, it would provide an additional significant source of biofuels that would allow the UAE to transition into a less fossil-fuel-dependent economy.’

It is hoped that the development of sustainable biofuel will be a key component of aviation’s strategy for lowering carbon emissions.

The aim is to use only plant sources that do not distort the global food chain, compete with fresh water resources or lead to unintended land use change.

The data gathered during the halophyte study will be peer reviewed by third parties. The results are expected to be available in late 2010.