Sunday, January 17, 2010

Saltwater Biomass in Abu Dhabi for Jet Fuels

UOP LLC, a Honeywell company, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi, Boeing and Etihad Airways are establishing a research institute in Abu Dhabi—the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Project (SBRP)—that will use integrated saltwater agricultural systems (ISAS) to support the development and commercialization of biofuel sources for aviation and co-products. _GreenCarCongress

If You Can Grow It There, You'll Grow It Anywhere . . .

Halophytic plants are able to thrive on brackish and salt waters. Halophytes such as Salicornia can be irrigated with salty water, grow normally, then be harvested for biomass -- producing multiple crops per year.
The integrated approach uses saltwater to create an aquaculture-based farming system in parallel with the growth of the mangrove forests and Salicornia, a plant that thrives in salty water. These biomass sources can be sustainable harvested and used to generate clean energy, aviation biofuels and other products. The closed-loop system converts aquaculture effluent into an affordable, nutrient-rich fertilizer for both plant species. Developing low-cost, non-petroleum fertilizers is a key to achieving reductions in carbon emissions from any biofuel source. This technology has been pioneered by Dr. Carl Hodges of Global Seawater Inc., who has been engaged as special advisor to the project.

The development of low-cost, non-petroleum fertilizers is one of the keys to achieving genuine carbon emissions reductions from any biofuel source. This seawater farming concept has been successfully implemented in Mexico and Northern Africa by Global Seawater Inc., which will provide advice and insight to support the SBRP in Abu Dhabi. _GCC

One of the most common arguments made against the future of biomass energy, is the claim that there is not enough arable land on the planet to produce enough energy crops to make a difference in the long-term energy equation.   Assuming the charge is true (it is not), what if you did not require "arable" land to grow your energy crops?   Salicornia loves desert land and saltwater.  Algae love deserts and saltwater.  A large number of near-future gene-engineered crops and microbes will thrive on saltwater in the desert.  Just add sunlight and CO2, and perhaps a bit of saltwater aquaculture etc. to round out the ecosystem.

The involvement of Honeywell and Boeing in the Abu Dhabi project suggests that at least a few fairly educated and reality-driven individuals have looked at the pros and cons -- and decided to go ahead.

Most of the naysaying about biomass energy comes from academics who wouldn't know one end of an industrial process from the other.  Professors who never had to balance a budget in their lives, who never did an honest day's work in their lives, perhaps.  An unfair accusation to some, but many modern academics fit the picture of being better at polemics than at solving problems and getting things done.

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