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Safran pursues its commitment on the biofuel trail


Safran, which is already involved in the development of biofuels for aeronautics, is supporting an initiative led by the Masdar Institute’s Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC) in the Abu Dhabi desert to produce a salicornia-based biofuel. This sector is a part of a comprehensive and sustainable ecosystem incorporating aquaculture and based on the use of seawater.

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In the field of environmental protection, the aviation industry has set ambitious goals, namely to halt the rise in CO2 emissions by 2020, then to halve them before 2050. Among other measures, this involves developing new technological solutions for engines or aircraft, and optimizing air traffic. But it also means developing sustainable alternative fuels, considered today as one of the key factors in achieving these goals.

These biofuels are produced from non-fossil organic materials derived from biomass. As the lack of fresh water is a global threat, it is necessary to develop crops that do not use this resource. Salicornia, one of these sustainable organic materials, has attracted the attention of researchers. It is a plant that develops in a saline environment and whose oil-rich seeds can be easily transformed into biofuel by hydrotreatment technology (HEFA1).


Since the desert of Abu Dhabi is not arable land, the production of salicornia does not cause any conflict with food production. That is why the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates), with the support of Safran, Etihad Airways, Boeing, General Electric and ADNOC Refining (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company), decided to develop an aquaculture farm in Abu Dhabi that will use sea water and the effluent of fish farming to cultivate salicornia.

This project will study the optimization of an overall "ecosystem" incorporating food production, the production of biofuels and the protection of the quality of the coastal waters. The aquaculture wastewater is in fact used to enrich the cultivation of salicornia, while the creation of a mangrove-type ecosystem provides a final purification of the water, which can thus be directly re-injected into the aquaculture ponds. The research highlights the investments made by the aviation sector as well as some oil powers to develop sustainable energy sources.

Additionally, Safran is actively working with its partners on the development of cleaner alternative fuels as part of the Air Transport Action Group and the Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection.


Learn more

Read the article published in the MIT's Technology Review on salicornia's potential as a future fuel

Read the press release published by the Masdar Institute on the results of this first harvest of salicornia.


1 The HEFA (Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids) process uses the oils extracted from oil-containing plants and microalgae. Result: a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of up to 60%.