Sustainability and Risk Assessment of Integrated Seawater Agriculture Systems for the Production of Biofuels

  • Brian Warshay

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


The aviation sector is and will continue to be dependent upon high energy density liquid fuels. These fuels are typically derived from fossil sources that emit previously sequestered carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when combusted, contributing to anthropogenic global warming. The depletion of easily accessible oil resources is leading to exploitation of higher lifecycle emission intensity fossil fuels like heavy oils and tar sands. As a result, the development of lower carbon intensity, more sustainable, liquid fuel alternatives for aviation is essential for maintaining the sector's growth to meet global mobility needs without increasing its environmental impact. Fuels derived from numerous biomass feedstocks can provide drop-in liquid fuels that have the potential to be more sustainable alternatives to fossil derived sources. A life cycle assessment of a biofuel's entire production system, from planting to combustion, to evaluate its life cycle greenhouse gas emissions, net energy balance, water consumption, resource use, and other environmental impacts is necessary to establish its true sustainability potential. An Integrated Seawater Agriculture System (ISAS) on desert land using primarily seawater for irrigation has the potential to produce more sustainable aviation biofuels when compared to fossil and other biofuel sources. Despite a wide range of uncertainty due to the untested nature of the ISAS operations in Abu Dhabi, the jet fuel produced from the ISAS emits only 5 to 45 percent of the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions released from the production of conventional fossil Jet-A fuel, even without considering the long-term subsurface carbon sequestration potential from cultivating desert land. This study presents a sustainability assessment that uses a novel life cycle tool to evaluate the production greenhouse gas emissions, net energy balance, and environmental risks of an ISAS for biofuel production in UAE conditions.
Date of Award2011
Original languageAmerican English
SupervisorSgouris Sgouridis (Supervisor)


  • Agriculture System
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Global Warming

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