Boeing is partnering Honeywell's UOP to
commission a study on the sustainability of a leading family of
saltwater-based plant candidates 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 UOP will also participate in the
analysis, which will include an assessment of the total carbon
lifecycle of biofuels.
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 and Abu Dhabi a viable location for conducting a
lifecycle-analysis study. 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, recognized as one of the world's premier
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.
"We must continue to evolve biofuels to incorporate
feedstocks that are not only sustainable, but actually
regenerative and can restore the ecosystems where they are found,"
said Jennifer Holmgren, general manager of UOP Renewable Energy &
Chemicals. "Global Seawater Inc. has led the development of a
promising solution, and we are excited to be working with this
team to further develop and understand the potential impact of
integrated seawater systems."
A successful outcome
of the study 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, Dr. Sgouris Sgouridis of
Masdar Institute said. The Masdar Initiative aims to create and
sustain the world's first carbon-neutral, zero-waste city, Masdar
City, located on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi.
City will have access to important production of locally grown
food and thus reduce its dependence on carbon-intensive imports,"
Sgouridis said. "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
Sustainable biofuel development is a key
component of aviation's strategy for lowering carbon emissions.
Potential plant sources being considered are only ones that don't
distort the global food-chain, compete with fresh water resources
or lead to unintended land use change. To verify data gathered
during the analysis, the halophyte study will be peer-reviewed by
third parties and measured against practices and principles
developed by the Roundtable for Sustainable Biofuels. The results
are expected to be available in late 2010.
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