Traditional methods of obtaining biofuel are expensive and require arable land and lots of fresh water. Introducing the solution to both of these problems: halophytes. These plants can live solely on salt water and are capable of surviving in harsh deserts. Now you can see why scientists are claiming it’s a game-changer for the biofuels market. Halophytes technically solve all of the issues that traditional biofuels had. So, who made this discovery, and where?
Boeing, Honeywell, and Eithad Airways started a scientific research center —the Sustainable Bio-Energy Research Consortium (SBRC)—back in 2009. The headquarters for the consortium, located in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, has been the center for studying these halophytes. Why did they start this research project? Well, good-guy Boeing wanted to move away from dirty, crude oil that is unsustainable. Darrin Morgan, the director of Sustainable Aviation Fuels and Environmental Strategy at Boeing, told Energy Post in an interview, “there are additives that go into those types of crude that are getting through the refining system and into our supply and are actually causing problems for us. Our existing supply chain is increasingly being fed by these heavy forms of crude that are less jet-friendly, to put it simply.” On top of this, major oil companies like Shell are not willing to help them out with their problems—the aviation industry is too small of a market for them to care. This is when Boeing decided to step in and lead the higher path towards cheaper, sustainable biofuels. But the green-technology plot isn’t over yet, it only gets more sustainable….
The researchers in Masdar City have also setup a pilot facility right next door, where they plan to use biofuels in combination with aquaculture. The two systems seem to synchronize together perfectly. Aquaculture, the process of farming fish, produces a lot of waste—salt water fertilizer that has nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to be exact. And it just so happens that this is exactly what the halophytes need to grow. From Morgan, via the Energy Post:
“Integrating those two systems you get sustainable aquaculture that does not pollute the oceans and biomass that can be used for fuels.”
20% of the Earth is desert. 97% of water on Earth is salt water. Have these researchers figured out a way to, not only “make use” of these two massive resources, but turn them into fuel-making powerhouses? Let’s put it this way—Morgan believes that these biofuels will eventually replace oil in transport. That is definitely one massive game-changer.