Mideast Project Develops Biofuel With Water From the Sea

Researchers in the Middle East are developing a technology they say will convert saltwater-tolerant crops into jet fuel, creating a biofuel that doesn’t consume huge amounts of fresh water or take land away from food crops. The Masdar Institute in the United Arab Emirates is creating a demonstration farm that will use a system called integrated seawater agriculture, in which seawater would be transported via canal to a desert-based farm that combines fish and shrimp farming with cultivation of mangrove trees and salicornia, whose seeds can be converted into fuel. The effluent from the fish farming will be used to fertilize the salicornia plants, which are grown in saltwater-irrigated fields, said Scott Kennedy, the project leader. The runoff of that irrigation, which by that point would be even saltier, would be used to grow the saltwater-tolerant mangrove trees. The oil-rich salicornia seeds would then be processed into biofuel suitable for blending in jet fuel, researchers said. One potential challenge for the project, experts noted, is the damage that high salt levels will likely inflict on machinery used to harvest the salicornia.