Saudi-based engineering group, Jubail Pearl, has joined forces with Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Dubai to establish a long-term partnership that aims to generate sustainable fuel sources to help diversify the region’s energy supply for a post-oil era.
The collaboration was sealed with the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). It will begin with the production and commercialisation of a sustainable biofuel, generated from the waste of the region’s vast palm tree crop.
An ancient natural resource that was once used for fuel to heat homes and bake bread, the palm tree has now found a future as a renewable source of energy thanks to modern science. The initiative involves gathering the fallen leaves of the trees and shredding the raw material according to a specific process to produce biomass pellets that are both energy efficient and carbon neutral.
The technology is the culmination of years of scientific research initiated by a scientific team led by Dr Yousef Al-Assaf, formerly Dean of the engineering college at the American University of Sharjah and now President of RIT Dubai. The collaboration with Jubail Pearl will see the installation of a manufacturing plant in the Energy and Sustainability Research Centre within the new RIT Dubai campus at Dubai Silicon Oasis, where final experimentations and small scale production will take place, before scaling up towards full commercialisation.
Speaking about the initiative, Dr Al-Assaf said, “Sustainability is a major pillar of our strategy at RIT, both in Dubai and New York, and it is one of four fundamental themes that define our new campus development. We need to prepare ourselves for the post-oil economy, and this initiative is the first step in our long-term commitment to developing a new energy portfolio for the future of society.”
Dr Al-Assaf continued, “Our mission is to go beyond the basic principles of a sustainable campus and to contribute to the wider community through research and development in a range of different green energy solutions, from biomass to solar and geothermal as well as solid-state batteries, which are cheaper to produce and transport, and most importantly, non-disruptive to our environment.”
Speaking on behalf of Jubail Pearl, Chairman of the Board, Dr Saaran A. Al Shammari, said, “We are delighted to be part of this project, which comes under HRH Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s vision for the use of alternative fuel, as well as the Vision 2030 program. We realised the need for the help of a world-class educational institution such as RIT Dubai in order to conduct this phase of the project, which will involve our experts and professors at the university working on both technical and strategical aspects. We anticipate this product will be the first of its kind in the Arab world. As an international engineering group with interests in energy and alternative energy, it has been prioritised by our Chairman of the Board, HRH Nawaf bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.”
Following further testing and certification, the team will be seeking government authorisations to use the fuel locally in the coming months and it is anticipated that it could be available as a commercially viable heating product as early as next year.