Qatar is known as one of the world’s major producers of natural gas, with the State sitting on huge reserves, and domestic companies such as Qatar Petroleum (QP) contributing to the local economy.
However, over the last few years, Qatar has been diversifying its oil and gas sector by delving into the world of biofuels and biogas.
Qatar revealed some of its research and development into sustainable biofuels at the start of the UN Climate Change Conference COP‑18, which was held in Doha for the first time in November 2012.
Roberto Gonzalez, the President of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization, and other delegates were given a tour of Qatar University’s QAR45.5 million biofuel project, the only one of its kind in the region. Already three years into the first phase of the project at the time of the tour, QU alongside partners Qatar Airways and Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) had developed an exceptional state-of-the-art facility, renowned both locally and internationally for its groundbreaking research.
The first phase of the project looked at biodiesel, bioethanol and bio-crude oil, to be specifically used by the airline industry.
Moving forward to April 2018, the Center for Sustainable Development at QU confirmed it is now developing the necessary methods to produce bio-crude oil as part of the Qatar Biofuel Project.
The Center for Sustainable Development has developed an endowed chair with funding from Qatar Shell. The Qatar Shell Professional Chair in Sustainable Development aims to establish greater understanding of the concept of sustainable development and form a research programme to increase understanding of sustainable development issues in Qatar.
The Chair also allows experts in relevant fields to work together to create a holistic vision of sustainable development in Qatar, including the sustainable use of energy. It is recognised that Qatar has seen unprecedented development over a short period of time, creating huge amounts of waste adversely affecting the environment and undermining sustainable development.
When looking at the sustainable use of energy, the project team studied each type of biofuel in terms of economic viability against available resources including the infrastructure already in place in the oil and gas sector. This study provided the data necessary to choose which biofuel best suited the aims of the project.
Under the second phase, the project will research aviation biofuel from algae-based bio-crude. According to Hareb Al Jabri, Center for Sustainable Development Director and Qatar Biofuel Project Manager, ‘Production of biofuels can be done efficiently under searing temperatures and without relying on Qatar’s arable land.’
If successfully produced on a commercial scale, the discovery will have international ramifications – significantly reducing one of the airline industry’s biggest fixed costs and providing a sustainable, environmentally-friendly fuel where carbon dioxide is recycled rather than accumulating in the atmosphere.’
Under the analytical study, the biomass was converted into bio-crude oil. Its components were then separated using the available refinery systems. The project is now developing these production processes and investigating volume and quality levels.
It is hoped that the results of the biofuel project will add value to Qatar’s oil and gas sector. It fits in with Qatar Airways’ mandate to use environmentally-friendly fuel in the airline industry as well as reduce the negative environmental effects of conventional fuel. It will also satisfy one of the goals of Qatar National Vision 2030, to diversify the nation’s economic diversification and create a knowledge-based economy.
‘These efforts are highlighted in the Qatar National Strategy which started in 2011, which focuses on the importance of supporting research projects related to the development of technologies for renewable energy, as well as to drive collaboration efforts with various local and regional institutions to produce renewable energy,’
Turning waste into fuel
Another department at QU, the College of Engineering, has launched a project in conjunction with the Ministry of Municipality and Environment to produce biogas from waste. The aim is that this biogas can be used as a clean energy to power motor vehicles. The project will study various techniques for producing biogas from waste, with vehicles being converted from diesel to biofuel and compressed gas to utilise the waste from the solid waste management centre.
The first phase of the project will involve an economic feasibility study to look at aspects such as the storage of biogas, the costs involved in its compression and purification, and buying the machinery necessary to convert vehicles to biofuel. An experimental study has already powered a vehicle using biogas from waste.
The country is actively embracing Waste to Energy (WtE) as a sustainable waste management strategy and cost-effective fuel source for the future. Simply put, WtE works by taking waste and turning it into a form of energy – electricity, heat or transport fuel.
Qatar was the first GCC country to implement a waste-to-energy programme and generates over 30MW of electricity from the Domestic Solid Waste Management Center (DSWMC) at Mesaieed. A solid waste management plan is being implemented for managing wastes from households, commercial establishments, and the construction industry.
The target is to recycle 38% of solid waste, up from the current 8%, and reduce domestic per capita waste generation. More than 2.5 million tons of municipal solid waste is produced each year, and Qatar has one of the highest per capita waste generation rates worldwide at 1.8 kg per day.
Author: Sarah Palmer