Desert plants to be put to the test for aviation biofuel production

Desert plants to be put to the test for aviation biofuel production

The Salicornia is one species of halophyte that is a promising feedstock for biofuel produ...

The Salicornia is one species of halophyte that is a promising feedstock for biofuel production (Photo: SBRC)

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Whenever the topic of plant-derived biofuels is raised, the issue of turning valuable arable land over to the task of growing feedstock is generally not far behind. A discovery by the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SRBC) that desert plants fed by seawater can produce biofuel more efficiently than other well-known feedstocks could help alleviate such concerns.

The SRBC, which is affiliated with the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi, is receiving funding from Boeing, Etihad Airways and Honeywell UOP to develop and commercialize a sustainable biofuel that emits 50 to 80 percent less carbon through its lifecycle than fossil fuels. Plants called halophytes, which are highly salt tolerant, could be the answer.