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Fuel from seawater

Salicornia bigelovii: leafless plant has seeds useful for biodiesel production

sbrcSalicornia bigelovii: leafless plant has seeds useful for biodiesel productionsbrc

A plant that tolerates high levels of salt in the soil and can even be irrigated with seawater is at the center of research related to aviation biofuel production in a project undertaken jointly by the US aircraft manufacturer Boeing and institutions in the United Arab Emirates.  The idea is to produce aviation biokerosene in the arid soils of this Middle Eastern country, using  seeds and ethanol from biomass sugars of Salicornia bigelovii, a leafless plant originally from the United States and the Caribbean.  The research is being carried out by the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC), which includes both Boeing and the airline Etihad Airways, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in the UAE, and the US technology company Honeywell.  In addition to producing plant seedlings, the Masdar researchers reported in the journal Bioresource Technology (February, 2014) that dry salicornia has good potential for producing second generation ethanol through an enzymatic hydrolysis process that extracts sugars from the plant.  It has characteristics similar to other crops used for biofuel, such as corn stover, wheat, sugarcane and other grasses.  The only problem is the need to use fresh water to remove the accumulated salt before processing the plant into biofuel.  In 2015, the researchers will build an ecosystem in the sandy soil of the Emirates.  The seawater used for raising fish and shrimp will irrigate a Salicornia plantation.