ICAO president highlights algae biofuel research at COP18

By Erin Voegele | December 14, 2012

Algae biofuel research being completed at Qatar University was praised by Roberto Kobeh González, president of the council of the International Civil Aviation Organization. González toured the location as part of his trip to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP18) in Doha, Qatar. As part of his COP18 appearance, González presented a status update of the ICOA’s progress biofuels and other carbon mitigation efforts.

“We really welcome this project as an example of the varying biofuel solutions that can be applied in different areas around the globe,” said González. “The Qatar project is notable in that it is State-backed and employs resources natural to the surroundings. These do not depend on arable land vital to food consumption.”

The university’s research is being completed in collaboration with Qatar Airways and Qatar Science and Technology Park. Now in its third year, focuses on microalgae and cyanobacteria strains unique to Qatar. These microorganisms grow well in extreme heat, strong sunlight and highly saline waters.

According to information published by the university, the research group grew cultures of these strains, eliminating variations least adapted to Qatar’s environmental conditions. Production was scaled up at the laboratory level. Lipids extracted from the algae and cyanobacteria were converted into biofuel. The carbohydrate portion of the biomass was also converted to biofuel a biofuel, specifically ethanol. Currently, work is underway to scale up cultivation to 25,000 liter (6,604 gallon) research ponds. If the project continues to show success, a 1.5 million liter pilot-scale plant could be developed.

In his remarks at the COP18, González biofuels are an essential part of the ICAO member states’ strategy for sustainable aviation. “Commercial flights on sustainable alternative fuels are now a reality,” he said. “Airlines are using drop-in biofuels that do not require changes to aircraft design or fuel delivery systems. Facilitating the availability of such fuels at competitive prices and in sufficient quantities for use in aviation is the next challenge, one for which an ICAO expert group is currently developing global policies.”