European Transport Commissioner Slim Kalls, in his call for new,
Environmentally superior fuels has made the point that fuels derived from
any type of food raw material are not acceptable. Mr. Kalls may, in fact, get
even better overall fuel that exceed his expectations.
One of the valuable potentials is discussed in “The National”(publication),
reports on a planned project at Masdar(affiliated with MIT) funded by Etihad Airways, Boeing, Honeywell, Safran and the Abu Dhabi Government. The project director, Dr. Jonathan Jed Brown, as head of integrated seawater energy and agriculture system project at Masdar explains that a 500 acre pond system will be built in an arid coastal area where shrimp and sea-bream will be cultivated in salt water at scale. Waste water from this operation will be used to irrigate and provide nutrients for fields of salt-tolerant oil bearing plants such as salicornia and halophytes.
Additional waste water will then be drained into mangroves. The resulting
oil seeds and cellulosic materials together will be harvested for their sources
of bio fuel feed stocks. The Masdar group are selecting locations for the pond system and expect a decision by year end. Needless to say, Arabia and North Africa have huge unused coastal areas that may be favorable. At issue is the degree to which the sale of shrimp may offset the cost of bio feed stocks for fuel. Masdar’s stated primary
objective is to find alternatives to petroleum for its Gulf States clients to offset
long term decline in petroleum supply (and environmental negatives).
Co-farming of shrimp and bio fuel fed stock was investigated several years ago
but not on the scale proposed by Masdar.
Coincidental with reports of the proposed venture, the World shrimp
supply has become stressed and prices increased due to areported shrimp
virus problems. Discussion of this by the “Oceanic Institute of Hawaii”
suggests that best practices, however, can overcome the yield problem
at state of the art farming operations.
Adding scope to the project is the license granted by Honeywell
UOP to Masdar for its UOP/Eni Ecofining technology which broadens
the properties of different feed stocks(including algae oil) that is converted to diesel and high specification JetA. Diesel fuel will come from Eni in Italy initially. Another
source for UOP/Eni green diesel fuel is an Emerald refinery in Louisiana .
UOP’s stated position that fuel derived by its system will be cost/competitive
vs petroleum, is another cornerstone of the program.
Masdar, a recently formed, large R&D facility in the UAE (affiliated with MIT)
counts as its overall prime objective, for its oil producing clients, is development of
new oil to replace long term dwindling reserves of petroleum.
There is more than just the reserves of petroleum that are at issue. Opinion
expressed in the Wall Street Journal (10/30/013) titled “The Carbon Asset Bubble” suggests the need for alternatives (including bio fuels ) in order to not exceed 2 deg C growth in global warming.
Mr. Kalls’ quest will be further realized soon when diesel fuel made from
broad spectrum biomass via the UOP/Eni system becomes available in Europe. UOP has reported 80% greenhouse gas reductions from diesel vehicles with its fuel along with remarkably high 80 cetane rating
JetA version of the UOP fuel has been evaluated extensively by many airlines but
is currently hung up on industry/regulator debate on when regulated carbon
emissions should apply internationally; rather than selectively by some countries
who want to start soon to meet their air quality objectives.
Yet another fuel, ethanol, is moving forward with new technology without use of food crop and fresh water. The Algenol system produces ethanol from algae in saltwater with input of CO2 and nutrients. Contained in plastic bags exposed to solar
heating, the algae continuously secrets ethanol vapors which are condensed into liquid yield at 9000 gal/acre/yr is reported with the by-product benefit that one gallon of fresh water is produced per gallon of ethanol.
Florida based Algenol recently affiliated with Reliance Industries, the largest sector enterprise in India with revenues of $66 billion/yr. Reliance’s primary business is petroleum refining . It is constructing a duplicate of Algenol’s ethanol production unit in India for validation. 8.5% growth per year is forecasted for alternative fuels.