Could Salicornia Be a New Wonder Feedstock?

Joanna Schroeder

On the Eve of the World Future Energy Summit, which began today in Abu Dhabi, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Honeywell UOP, Boeing and Ethiad Airways announced a project that would study how to combine fish farms and biofuel crops to lower CO2, reduce ocean waste and produce renewable jet fuel. The star feedstock? Salicornia.

Photo Credit: South Dakota State University

Photo Credit: South Dakota State University

Salicornia, also known as glasswort, pickleweed and marsh samphire, is a salt tolerant plant that is high in oil and protein. It is native to North America, Europe, South Africa and South Asia. An edible plant, it is can potentially produce animal feed as well as biodiesel on coastal land where conventional crops are not suitable.

This is not the first project to study Salicornia as a way to reduce ocean pollution and create biofuels. Back in the late 90s early 2000s a group called the Seawater Foundation (now Global Seawater, Inc.)  did a pilot project in Eritrea and are currently doing a pilot project in Mexico.

According to Greentech Media, here is how it would work. Farmers would create ponds and streams for raising shrimp and/or tilapia interspersed with Salicornia and mangrove which would absorb the waste from the fish reducing the amount of pollution that would travel through the waterways. The fish would be harvested for food and the Salicornia would be harvested to make biofuels as well as fish food and the straw of the plant would be burned in a biomass reactor to produce electricity, explained Scott Kennedy, associate professor at the Masdar Institute working with MIT.

“It is a much more commercial ready process” than some forms of algae cultivation, Kennedy said.

The next step in the process will see if Salicornia can be grown in large quantities and if so, what the environmental effects will be on the surrounding ecosystems. Ultimately, the discovery of these answers will help determine the viability of the feedstock for biofuels production.

Biodiesel, biofuels, biomass, Energy, feedstocks