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Masdar desert facility to harvest first biomass in June

The world's first research facility to grow both food and fuel, using desert lands irrigated by seawater, is scheduled to begin its first biomass harvest in June.

The 2-ha research facility is operated by Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, a graduate research-based university in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and funded by the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC).

The SBRC is an industry stakeholder group founded by Masdar Institute, Etihad Airways, Boeing, Takreer, Safran, Honeywell UOP and GE Aviation to develop a clean sustainable and alternative fuel supply. Peter Baumgartner, Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways, and Mohammad Al Bulooki, Executive Vice President Commercial, joined Scott Fancher, Boeing Senior Vice President, visited the integrated seawater and agriculture system facility last week to check on the project’s progress.

According to a statement from Etihad Airways, the first biomass from the demonstration facility is expected to be harvested in June. The oil extracted from the seeds is then to be refined into jet fuel and used on an Etihad Airways flight.

If the technology proves viable at this smaller-scale, further expansion will continue with the ultimate ambition to scale up to a 200-hectare demonstration site. The goal of the research facility is to prove the viability of an integrated bioenergy production system with respect to essential food and fuel production, suitable land use, reduced carbon emissions and wastewater clean-up.

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