Nation takes ‘green route’ via biofuel research project

[Qatar] A Qatar University ( QU )-initiated research project on the use of biofuel sourced from indigenous natural resources places the country at the forefront of the search for diversified, renewable, and environment-friendly energy.

QU vice-president for research Dr Hassan al-Derham told Gulf Times that the project, led by Qatar Biofuel project manager Hareb al-Jabri, is one of the university’s contributions to achieving the Qatar National Vision 2030.

The project, which is supported by national flag carrier Qatar Airways, aims to produce clean and environmentally-friendly alternative energy from locally-available natural resources, specifically for Qatar’s aviation industry.

As an advocate of innovative technologies, the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) is also supporting the endeavour by providing resources and the manpower requirements of the project.

To produce biofuel from microalgae, organic chemical compounds like fat or carbohydrates from biomass must be extracted and converted into biodiesel or bio-ethanol, which can later be converted to jet fuel.

QU ‘s research team discovered that Qatar’s climate is an ideal environment for the production of biomass from microorganisms that spread dramatically and naturally along the country’s coastal regions.

According to al-Jabri, the first phase of the project involves the collection of multiple forms of single-celled photosynthetic organisms such as cyanobacteria and microalgae from select areas in Qatar.

After the selection process, the single-celled organisms were isolated and purified through various stages and yielded 200 different organisms.

Al-Jabri said that various types of microalgae thrive along the shores of Qatar and exceeded the sample strains initially isolated.

Given the diversity of the country’s microalgae, al-Jabri said more organisms will be isolated in the future since the 200 types were not enough for the first phase.

He added that QU will be establishing a research centre for microalgae that will include a bank of all microalgae strains that have been isolated from Qatar’s environment.

Also, the Qatar Biofuel project has established a mini pilot plant inside QU ‘s research farm to study the growth of microalgae on a large scale and under natural climatic conditions during different seasons of the year.

Al-Jabri noted that there are five factors that could guarantee the success of the project on a commercial scale such as rapid growth rate of select high-capacity strains, suitable temperature for microalgae growth, adequate quantity of sunlight, availability of certain nutrients like nitrogen and phosphate, and accessibility to carbon dioxide sources.

Being a leader in the oil and gas industry, al-Jabri said Qatar’s energy companies could be potential partners for the sourcing of carbon dioxide during the second phase of the project.

Aside from exploring alternative sources of jet fuel, the Qatar Biofuel project contributes to minimising the environmental impact of industrial waste by recycling carbon dioxide, he said.

Earlier, al-Derham said that the university’s Gas Processing Centre (GPC) is working on an innovative project that aims to capture carbon mainly from industrial and natural gas streams.

The project, he added, was aimed at steering the country away from being a carbon-based economy amid reports that Qatar has the “highest per capita emission” of carbon dioxide in the world.

Al-Derham stressed that by investing on research and development, Qatar could diversify away from the oil and gas sector and become a knowledge-based economy.

 

View original article at: Nation takes ‘green route’ via biofuel research project

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