Boeing Project Harvests Biofuel from Desert Plants


by | Jan 23, 2014

BoeingBoeing and research partners in the United Arab Emirates are collaborating on a project to test desert plants fed by seawater called halophytes, which the partners say will produce aviation biofuel more efficiently than other feedstocks.

The Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC), affiliated with the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi, will test these findings in a project that could support biofuel crop production in arid countries.

Funded by Boeing, Etihad Airways and Honeywell UOP, the SRBC works to commercialize sustainable aviation biofuel, which emits 50 to 80 percent less carbon through its lifecycle compared to fossil fuel.

Halophyte seeds contain oil suitable for biofuel production, according to SBRC research.

In the coming year, SBRC scientists will create a test ecosystem by planting two crops of halophytes in Abu Dhabi’s sandy soil. Waste seawater from a fish and shrimp farm will nourish halophytes that clean the water as they grow. The water will next flow into a field of mangroves before returning to the ocean. Both plants would be converted into aviation biofuel.

Earlier this month, Boeing said it is seeking approval for aircraft to fly on green diesel, made from oils and fats, that emits at least 50 percent less CO2 than fossil fuel over its lifecycle.

In other Boeing news, the company’s ultra fuel-efficient Dreamliner jet hit another snag this month when “white smoke” was seen outside a Japan Airlines’ Dreamliner cockpit during maintenance, Industry Week reports. JAL grounded the plane; a subsequent investigation found that one of the eight lithium-ion cells in the plane’s battery system had leaked. Its safety valve, however, designed to release excessive pressure, was properly open.

The latest battery problem comes a year after fires and other battery problems grounded the Dreamliner fleet worldwide for three months.



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