Fish farm fuelled flight takes off


A JET airliner has just completed the world’s first commercial flight using biofuel originating from a fish farm.
A United Arab Emirates Etihad Airways Boeing 787 made the 3,200-mile journey from Abu Dhabi in to Amsterdam, opening the way for a new era in much cleaner aviation fuel.
The initiative, said the team behind the project, also addresses food security in the UAE, with the farming of seafood a core element in the process.
The technology was pioneered by the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC), a non-profit entity established by the Masdar Institute that is part of Khalifa University of Science and Technology in the UAE.
Sustainable fuel for the flight was derived from oil in salicornia (salt tolerant) plants, which were grown on a five-acre desert ecosystem farm in Masdar City.
Known as the Seawater Energy and Agriculture System (SEAS), the ecosystem is the world’s first such system designed to produce fuel and food in saltwater.
Fish and shrimp raised at the facility provide nutrients for the plants, as well as contribute to the UAE’s food production.
Operated by the SBRC, the SEAS pilot facility became operational in March 2016. Salt-tolerant halophyte plants that thrive in desert conditions and do not require fresh water or arable land to grow are nurtured there.
After wastewater from the fish fertilises the plants, it is diverted into a cultivated mangrove forest. This further removes nutrients and provides valuable carbon storage before the naturally filtered and treated effluent is discharged back into the sea.
Over the course of the next few years, the system is expected to scale up to 200 hectares in the move towards full-scale commercial implementation.
The biofuel is blended directly with jet fuel and does not require any modifications to aircraft, engines or airport fuelling delivery systems.
The unique initiative also bolsters the oil and gas industry by using existing refining infrastructure, with the potential to become an important new option for sustainable aviation fuel in the future.
Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, minister of Climate Change and Environment, said: ‘The UAE’s visionary leadership is strongly committed to positioning the country as a global hub for innovation and sustainability.
‘In this context, productive cross-disciplinary public-private partnerships are crucial to fuelling research and development efforts and creating game changing innovations that enable a more sustainable future.’
Tony Douglas, group chief executive officer of Etihad Aviation Group, said: ‘This is a significant milestone for the UAE and its key industries.
‘Etihad is fully committed to this project, which demonstrates a successful proof of concept that is local, viable, cost effective and sustainable.’


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