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Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium awards contract to build innovative agriculture and energy pilot project at Masdar City

Mechanical & Electrical Co to construct the world’s first bioenergy pilot project to use desert land – irrigated by seawater – to produce both bioenergy and food.

The Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium’s announcement was made during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW)1.

“This remarkable research has enormous implications for harmoniously producing food and fuel in water- and arable land-constrained regions,” said Masdar CEO Ahmad Belhoul. “Considering that about 20 per cent of the world’s land is desert and 97 per cent 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.”
The bioenergy pilot 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 goal of this bioenergy pilot project is to demonstrate the integrated bioenergy process as a commercially viable and sustainable system with respect to essential food and fuel production, suitable land use, reduced carbon emissions and wastewater clean-up.
“Masdar Institute is in pursuit of solutions to the water-food-energy nexus, which is being taken to the next level through this contract,” said Dr. Fred Moavenzadeh, president of the Masdar Institute. “We would like to thank the UAE leadership for their continuing support to address the country’s needs for sustainable food, fuel, and water security through such efforts. Collaborative undertakings like the one we are engaged with through the SBRC will enhance our ability to sustainably meet the UAE’s growing needs.”
Masdar Institute, together with Etihad Airways, The Boeing Company and Honeywell UOP, founded the consortium. Safran and GE have since joined.
The pilot project is expected to be operational by late summer.
  1. ADSW is the Middle East’s largest gathering of international leaders to address the interconnected challenges of energy and water security, climate risk and sustainable development Hosted by Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, ADSW includes the World Future Energy Summit and the International Water Summit.

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