Masdar City will soon be home to an ‘innovative’ new energy + agriculture pilot project that’ll seek to efficiently produce both food and biofuel feedstock, according to recent reports.
The project will aim to transform desert land into a biologically productive state capable of supplying fish, shrimp, and oil-rich plant crops, to the operators of the system — through an intelligent, integrated, closed-loop system design that makes use of saltwater-tolerant plant species.
The pilot project is expected to be up and running by late summer — with construction duties being performed by International Mechanical & Electrical Company (IMECO). The project is based on work done by the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, and represents the first bioenergy pilot project utilizing desert land (irrigated only with seawater) to produce bioenergy + food.
Considering the project’s aim to deal with desertification, water scarcity, agricultural runoff, energy needs, and food security — all at once — it’s really quite notable. The successful implementation of such an approach could prove it to be an effective means of addressing many barriers to activity in the region — opening up further agricultural and economic activities there.
“This remarkable research has enormous implications for harmoniously producing food and fuel in water- and arable land–constrained regions,” stated Masdar CEO Ahmad Belhoul. “Considering that about 20% of the world’s land is desert and 97% of the world’s water is salt water, this approach turns a land and water resource scarcity problem on its head by creating a bioenergy solution applicable in countries around the globe. As the UAE enters the Year of Innovation, bioenergy research will continue to be a key area of focus for Masdar and will help to position our nation as one that incubates and exports knowledge.”
The consortium behind the pilot project includes: Masdar Institute, Etihad Airways, the Boeing Company, Honeywell UOP, Safran, and now also GE.
The specifics of the system, as stated in an email sent to Planetsave, are posted below:
The project is based upon an integrated, closed-loop system. The technology uses coastal seawater to raise fish and shrimp for food, whose nutrient-rich wastewater then fertilizes plants rich in oils that can be harvested for aviation biofuel production. The plants thrive in arid, desert conditions and don’t require fresh water or arable land to grow. Lastly, the effluent is diverted into cultivated mangroves being discharged back into the sea, further removing nutrients and providing valuable carbon storage.
The aim of this project is, of course, to show that integrated systems such as this can be commercially viable — and an effective means of reducing carbon emissions, reducing wastewater, and improving food and energy security. Perhaps most of note with the system is that it can address some of the primary causes of desertification, with regard to agriculture, thereby decreasing the rate of desertification in the region.
You can find some of our earlier coverage of this initiative here: Biofuel Flights Within Five Years, Says Head Of Etihad Airways and Biofuel from Desert Plants Set to Clean Up Aviation.
Image Credit: Masdar Institute of Science and Technology