Oslo, February 27, 2012
Yara has signed a cooperation agreement with The Sahara Forest Project AS and Qafco to build a pilot plant in the desert of Qatar, aiming to produce food, fresh water, clean energy and biomass using proven green technologies.
The Sahara Forest Project (SFP) is about creating re-vegetation and green jobs through profitable production of food, water, clean energy and biomass in desert areas by combining proven environmental technologies, using seawater, greenhouses, solar energy and a supply of CO2 and fertilizer.
The agreement was signed in Oslo by CEO Jørgen Ole Haslestad of Yara International, CEO Khalifa Abdullah Al-Sowaidi of Qafco, and CEO Joakim Hauge of The Sahara Forest Project AS on February 27, 2012. This represents a next step after the initial agreement, to conduct a comprehensive feasibility study in Qatar, signed in March 2011.
The estimated cost for the pilot plant is USD 5.3 million and Qafco and Yara International will provide the funding. The parties have already started preparations, and are on schedule to reach the target of having a fully operational pilot plant by December 2012.
“We are very excited to join forces with Qafco and Yara to realize this truly unique system of green technologies. The pilot plant will prove the benefits of a holistic approach to challenges in the food, water and energy sectors,” said CEO of The Sahara Forest Project, Joakim Hauge.
"While contributing with our industrial experience and nutrient knowledge in this environmental project, we are at the same time developing potential new and exciting markets in desert areas,” said Jørgen Ole Haslestad, President and CEO of Yara International.
“QAFCO and Yara are sponsoring this environmental project, to be executed by The Sahara Forest Project in a pilot scale, to demonstrate the potential of green technology in arid regions like Qatar, using seawater and solar energy for future larger scale research and a commercial platform in the areas of horticulture, fresh water generation, energy production, and algae production,” stated Khalifa Abdullah Al-Sowaidi, CEO of Qafco.
Innovative technologies for greening the desert
The pilot project is designed to fit in an approximately 10,000 m2 area inside the Qafco 5 site in Qatar. It will integrate a combination of innovative technologies, such as solar thermal technologies with processes for saltwater evaporation, condensation of fresh water and production of food and biomass.
According to the SFP, the foundation of the pilot is greenhouses utilizing seawater to provide cool and humid growing conditions for vegetables. They will also produce freshwater themselves. The project will employ concentrated solar power, using mirrors to concentrate the energy from the sun and create very high temperatures. It will produce superheated steam that can power a conventional steam turbine, generating electricity. The pilot will also allow for cultivation of algae in a system of photo-bioreactors and open pond cultivation systems.
One of the goals is also to demonstrate the potential for cultivating desert land and making it green. Outdoor vertical evaporators will create sheltered and humid environments for cultivation of plants. The pilot will contain outdoor hydroponic raceways for cultivation of halophytes – plants tolerant of irrigation with salty water.
CO2 captured from the Qafco site can be used to increase the production of biomass. Yara will also contribute with its knowledge on plant nutrition and supply, low carbon footprint fertilizers, and fertilizers for use in desert areas. The facilities in the pilot plant will be supported by on-site laboratories, scientists and professional growers.
The idea is that the project paves the way for commercialization of this green technology for large-scale implementation, with a vision of sustainably producing energy, food and fresh water, not only for Qatar, but for tomorrow’s world population.
“The pilot project in Qatar will demonstrate the benefits of reducing waste streams in technological systems. Our message is that it is possible to design solutions that are good for the environment, good for social development, and that have a long-term economic sustainability,” commented Joakim Hauge, CEO of The Sahara Forest Project.
Sahara Forest Project closely tied to Yara´s approach
In a world facing water scarcity and needing sustainable food production and clean energy, one of the greatest challenges is finding ways to close the gap between future demands and available resources. The Sahara Forest Project is all about rethinking resource use, moving from extractive to sustainable and restorative use.
These goals are closely linked to Yara´s approach of addressing issues such as food security and climate change in a sustainable way - applying innovative and environmental technologies, and using scarce resources like farmland and fresh water efficiently.
"Increased food demand must be met with innovative thinking and an efficient agricultural sector. This project demonstrates that Yara’s continuous research and development efforts go well with environmental activities aiming to solve one of our times’ most important challenges,” concluded Jørgen Ole Haslestad.
Read more about The Sahara Forest Project