Land at Masdar to test biofuel plant growth
ABU DHABI // Growing plants to be used for biofuel is the first step towards making commercial flying good for the environment.
A pilot project started on Thursday at Masdar, with organisers breaking ground on a two-hectare plot.
The ecosystem will begin a three-year testing period. Afterwards, 200 hectares will be used for production, leading to farms of 10,000 and 20,000 hectares.
“Two hundred hectares will produce enough fuel [to fly] from Abu Dhabi to London and back, but that’s nothing, there are four flights like that every day,” said Dr Alejandro Rios, director of the sustainable bioenergy research consortium at Masdar Institute.
To mirror ocean tides, researchers will use a levy system on a water basin growing mangroves that will filter the carbon dioxide byproduct produced by the plants.
“We are mimicking what’s happening in nature, because mangroves are underwater half the time and without water the other half,” he said.
Dr Rios said the integral component in the project is water. With approximately 97 per cent of the world’s water coming from the oceans, that component is readily available.
“We are not using fresh water, we are using one of the most abundant resources in the UAE, ocean water,” he said. “We’re talking about food security because we are producing food and fuel.”
Dr Rios also pointed to statistics that show the importance of the project. With 20 per cent of the word’s landmass covered in desert, a successful project here could be easily implemented elsewhere in the world.
“This is a laboratory system,” he said. “It’s our big toy to play with. It’s a design experiment so we can understand the inter-relationship to produce these plants in a sustainable way.”
Updated: June 11, 2015 04:00 AM