Saltwater Biofuel Production & Fish Farming Combined by UAE's Masdar Institute

salicornia bigelovii photo
It's been a while since saltwater-loving salicornia has made an appearance on these pages, but a new research effort by the Masdar Institute is bring it back. As Technology Review reports Masdar is hoping to combine fish and shrimp farming with salicornia cultivation to 1) make the fish farming less environmentally damaging, and 2) to make a whole bunch of biofuel.

The idea, which is also being backed by Boeing, Etihad Airways, and UOP Honeywell, is to first dig ponds and fill them with saltwater brought in via canal from the sea. In this space shrimp or fish are farmed. Instead of the potentially damaging effluent going back into the sea, it is used to fertilize fields of salicornia. This in turn is harvested and turned into biofuel. The runoff from this flows into specially planted mangrove swamp, which prevents any remaining fish water from entering the sea--not to mention provided a storm barrier and sequestering carbon in its biomass.The end use of the salicornia-based biofuel is, as you've probably guessed by the project's backers, is aviation. Left over plant matter can be used in electricity generation.

The biggest question in all of this, when it comes to commercial implementation, is probably how much fuel can be produced per hectare. Technology Review reports that the salicornia has similar yield to soybeans. Sort of middle of the road when it comes to biofuels. It's an interesting idea though.

More: Technology Review
Salicornia biogelovii is one of the species most studied for use in biofuel. Photo: Georgia Coastal Ecosystems LTER.
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