Green group says no to bio-fuel

The UAE's green building practices watchdog, the Emirates Green Building Council, has said plans for a commercial-scale bio-diesel plant is not the answer to reducing the construction industry's carbon footprint.

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said bio-fuel uses products such as sunflower seeds
Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said bio-fuel uses products such as sunflower seeds

The UAE's green building practices watchdog, the Emirates Green Building Council, has said plans for a commercial-scale bio-diesel plant is not the answer to reducing the construction industry's carbon footprint.

Bio-diesel is a non-petroleum fuel that is produced from organic sources such as vegetable oils, animal fat and other bio-masses.

Last Sunday venture capital fund Alf Yad announced its investment in Embio, which it said is positioned to become the first commercial producer of bio-
diesel in the GCC.

Embio's managing partner, Karim Aly, said the plant would begin output in 2009 and market the "environmentally-friendly" fuel at a wholesale level to the construction industry.

"Contractors are one of the heaviest consumers of diesel fuel which means the infrastructural growth we're seeing in the UAE is fueled by diesel," he said.

"What we would do is displace some of those diesel fuels in favour of bio-diesel blends which in turn will reduce the ecological footprint on the nation and the globe."

Aly said using a B20 fuel blend, a mixture of 80% petroleum diesel and 20% bio-diesel, significantly reduces greenhouse gas and other toxic particle emissions.

But chairman of the Green Council's technical subcommittee, Sarfraz Dairkee, said bio-diesel's eco-friendliness is still far from proven.

"Unfortunately the research which has been carried out on bio-fuels show that it is not a zero- carbon fuel," he said.

"You produce carbon during production of the fuel, during its transportation and there are also carbon emissions when you are disposing of it.

"Some articles even suggest it has a larger carbon footprint compared to producing conventional petroleum products."

Dairkee also doubted claims made by Embio that the new fuel will help save money in the construction industry.

Embio said bio-diesel would be priced slightly higher than petroleum diesel, but would assist contractors to comply with soon-to-be-introduced 'green building' codes and help earn Leed points (a green building rating system) for developers.

"There are lots of people claiming all kinds of things who don't know the Leed system or don't know the depth of Leed," said Dairkee.

Leed accredited professional, Peter Cummings from WSP consulting group, agreed that bio-fuel is unlikely to have much of an impact on Leed credits at present.

"The Leed system does not include energy used for constructing a building," he said.

"Having said this, there could be an associated reduction in C02 emissions if bio diesel is substituted for normal diesel and so this is a clear environmental benefit.

"But there are concerns that bio-fuel production will divert agricultural land away from producing food and effectively increase food prices."

This is the main opposition force against bio-diesel. Research has been ongoing for the last 30 years to find a bio-fuel crop that can be grow on useless land, but nothing has proved viable said Dairkee.

Embio would not release details of their intended crop, but insisted they would focus on an inedible oil crop that grew in arid land.

Most popular

Awards

CW Oman Awards 2020: Meet the winners
A round of the thirteen winning names at the Construction Week Oman Awards 2020 that

Conferences

Leaders UAE 2020: Building a sustainable, 'resilient' infra
AESG’s Phillipa Grant, Burohappold’s Farah Naz, and Samana's Imran Farooq on a sustainable built environment
CW In Focus | Inside the Leaders in KSA Awards 2019 in Riyadh
Meet the winners in all 10 categories and learn more about Vision 2030 in this

Latest Issue

Construction Week - Issue 767
Sep 01, 2020