Qatar algae research project moves to Phase 2
February 16, 2016
oey Aguilar writes for the Gulf-Times that a Qatar University project to develop sustainable technologies from algae has entered the second phase. The initiative, led by project manager Hareb al-Jabri, started in 2009 with funding from Qatar Airways and Qatar Science and Technology Park. They established the Qatar Advance Bio Fuel Platform that led to the Bio Fuel Project, which was later rebranded as the Algal Technologies Programme (ATP).
Overseen by the University’s Centre for Sustainable Development, ATP seeks to develop technologies that can use Qatar’s non-fossil fuel resources to protect the environment and diversify the economy by capturing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and producing animal feeds locally. The ATP plans include the establishment of a 100-cubic meter outdoor cultivation unit and carbon sequestration project in partnership with the Qatari Diar Vinci Construction.
“We are going to scale this up in the near future so we can go to the demo phase, which will take approximately five years. After that we hope to (pursue) the pre-commercial and commercial phases,” research associate Kira Schipper told reporters during a visit to the algae plant in Al Khor, led by French Ambassador Eric Chevallier.
According to Ms. Schipper, such projects will help Qatar not only in food security but also in diversifying its economy, which is an important pillar of the National Vision 2030. The center currently focuses on producing marine animal feeds, believing it is more feasible and useful for Qatar (than biofuels) in the near future.
Ambassador Chevallier described the ATP as “a very interesting and promising” research project aimed at helping Qatar achieve food security, environmental protection, and bioremediation. He said some French companies, research institutes, and scientists are involved in the project, particularly the Qatari Diar Vinci Construction (QDVC).
France’s interest in the research project is due to its commitment to sustainable development, the ambassador noted. He said French companies are looking at collaborations with Qatar on sustainable development including solar energy, energy efficiency, wastewater treatment, and producing nutrients for animals, fish and humans. “Some applications may be hopefully for cancer,” he said.
Qatar is home to more than 200 specialized algae strains, which are abundant in many locations from the north to the south, including Zubarah, Thakhira, Al Khawar, The Pearl-Qatar, Fardat Al Samak, Mesaieed, Abu Samra, and Dukhan. With high solar radiation and warm temperatures, the country’s climate is highly suitable for algae production compared with European countries. Qatar also has large areas of non-arable lands, which cannot be used for agriculture, where algae can be easily grown.
Ms. Schipper said they prefer using seawater to grow algae rather than fresh water, which is costly, considering that such a valuable resource evaporates faster during the summer. “In a sense algae are helping us in our greenhouse problems and Qatar has high CO2 emissions,” she noted.
“We don’t want our ideas to stay here in the labs where nothing happens with them, where they get only published in scientific journals,” she stressed. “We want to take them to the next level that would mean something for the country. That is our ultimate goal.”