Bio-fuels and new-generation technologies coupled with known operations and infrastructure measures, will help the aviation industry reduce carbon emissions substantially.
However, the main challenge is being able to produce enough feed-stocks at industrial scale in a sustainable manner, without falling into the common debates of food vs. fuel or indirect land use change, according to Dr. Alejandro Ríos Galván, Director, Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC), and Professor of Practice, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.
Dr. Alejandro Ríos Galván was speaking at the BOLDtalks Innovation 2013, an event that witnessed a variety of discussions by innovation leaders, research experts, product developers, designers and business leaders. Held at Centrepoint Theatre, Dubai Community Theatre & Arts Centre, the event also generated substantial interest about the SBRC’s activities among the delegates.
The SBRC was established by the Abu Dhabi Government through Masdar Institute, and has founding partners such as Etihad Airways – the national airline of the UAE, The Boeing Co, and Honeywell’s UOP. Safran, a leading international high-technology group, is an associate partner. SBRC is mandated with identifying commercially viable means for the production of sustainable aviation fuel and other forms of energy from converted plant material.
Dr. Alejandro Ríos Galván said: “By improving fleet fuel efficiency by 1.5% a year from now until 2020 and by capping net emissions from 2020 through carbon neutral growth, the aviation industry is moving towards reducing its carbon emissions. This is where the SBRC’s projects gain relevance. Our key focus is sustainable bioenergy production with emphasis on arid land utilization and the development of aviation biofuels. The most striking factor in this project is our vision for the development of biomass using arid land and salt water as deserts cover around 20% of the world land mass and 97% of the Earth’s water is in the oceans.”
Titled ‘Integrated Seawater Energy and Agriculture System’ (ISEAS), the SBRC project will use seawater to grow several crops and produce bioenergy. A total of five research projects are being funded to support the ISEAS project. Among them, three are focused on examining techniques to convert halophyte biomass to energy, one examines the water and salt balance of the demonstration project and the other is examining various strains and species of halophytes that could be grown in the UAE.
Dr Rios added: “The ISEAS project focuses on a biomass supply chain that is cost-effective, scalable and sustainable. This research project not only drives sustainability but also ensures proportionate management of resources in the food–water–energy nexus.”
Prior to joining SBRC, Dr. Rios was the Director of ASA Fuel Services for 11 years, where he oversaw the operation and management of a network of over 60 fuel farms and their associated 2,000+ apron into-plane operations. He was the architect of the Plan de Vuelo (Flight Plan) initiative that is promoting the development of a sustainable aviation biofuel industry in Mexico. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, and Master’s and Ph. D. degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering, from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, US.
Serving as a key pillar of innovation and human capital, Masdar Institute remains fundamental to Masdar’s core objectives of developing Abu Dhabi’s knowledge economy and finding solutions to humanity’s toughest challenges such as climate change.
Established as an on-going collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Masdar Institute integrates theory and practice to incubate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, working to develop the critical thinkers and leaders of tomorrow. With its world-class faculty and top-tier students, the Institute is committed to finding solutions to the challenges of clean energy and climate change through education and research.