Algae Biorefinery – Promise and Potential

High oil prices, competing demands between foods and other biofuel sources, and the world food crisis, have ignited interest in algaculture (farming of algae) for making vegetable oil, biodiesel, bioethanol, biogasoline, biomethanol, biobutanol and other biofuels. Algae can be efficienctly grown on land that is not suitable for agriculture and hold huge potential to provide a non-food, high-yield source of biodiesel, ethanol and hydrogen fuels. 

Several recent studies have pointed out that biofuel from microalgae has the potential to become a renewable, cost-effective alternative for fossil fuel with reduced impact on the environment and the world supply of staple foods, such as wheat, maize and sugar.

What are Algae?

Algae are unicellular microorganisms, capable of photosynthesis. They are one of the world’s oldest forms of life, and it is strongly believed that fossil oil was largely formed by ancient microalgae. Microalgae (or microscopic algae) are considered as a potential oleo-feedstock, as they produce lipids through photosynthesis, i.e. using only carbon , water, sunlight, phosphates, nitrates and other (oligo) elements that can be found in residual waters. Oils produced by diverse algae strains range in composition. For the most part are like vegetable oils, though some are chemically similar to the hydrocarbons in petroleum.

Advantages of Algae

Apart from lipids, algae also produce proteins, isoprenoids and polysaccharides. Some strains of algae ferment sugars to produce alcohols, under the right growing conditions. Their biomass can be processed to different sorts of chemicals and polymers (Polysaccharides, enzymes, pigments and minerals), biofuels (e.g. biodiesel, alkanes and alcohols), food and animal feed (PUFA, vitamins, etc.) as well as bioactive compounds (antibiotics, antioxidant and metabolites) through down-processing technology such as transesterification, pyrolysis and continuous catalysis using microspheres.

Algae can be grown on non-arable land (including deserts), most of them do not require fresh water, and their nutritional value is high. Extensive R&D underway on algae as raw material worldwide, especially in North America and Europe with a high number of start-up companies developing different options.

Most scientific literature suggests an oil production potential of around 25-50 ton per hectare per year for relevant algae species. Microalgae contain, amongst other biochemical, neutral lipids (tri-, di-, monoglycerides free fatty acids), polar lipids (glycolipids, phospholipids), wax esters, sterols and pigments. The total lipid content in microalgae varies from 1 to 90 % of dry weight, depending on species, strain and growth conditions.

Algae-based Biorefinery

In order to develop a more sustainable and economically feasible process, all biomass components (e.g. proteins, lipids, carbohydrates) should be used and therefore biorefining of microalgae is very important for the selective separation and use of the functional biomass components.

The term biorefinery was coined to describe the production of a wide range of chemicals and bio-fuels from biomasses by the integration of bio-processing and appropriate low environmental impact chemical technologies in a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable. If biorefining of microalgae is applied, lipids should be fractionated into lipids for biodiesel, lipids as a feedstock for the chemical industry and essential fatty acids, proteins and carbohydrates for food, feed and bulk chemicals, and the oxygen produced should be recovered also.

The potential for commercial algae production is expected to come from growth in translucent tubes or containers called photo bioreactors or in open systems (e.g. raceways) particularly for industrial mass cultivation or more recently through a hybrid approach combining closed-system precultivation with a subsequent open-system. Major advantages of a algal biorefinery include:

  • Use of industrial refusals as inputs ( CO2,wastewater and desalination plant rejects)
  • Large product basket with energy-derived (biodiesel, methane, ethanol and hydrogen) and non-energy derived (nutraceutical, fertilizers, animal feed and other bulk chemicals) products.
  • Not competing with food production (non-arable land and no freshwater requirements)
  • Better growth yield and lipid content than crops.

Indeed, after oil extraction the resulting algal biomass can be processed into ethanol, methane, livestock feed, used as organic fertilizer due to its high N:P ratio, or simply burned for energy cogeneration (electricity and heat). If, in addition, production of algae is done on residual nutrient feedstocks and CO2, and production of microalgae is done on large scale in order to lower production costs, production of bulk chemicals and fuels from microalgae will become economically, environmentally and ethically extremely attractive.

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إدارة النفايات في المغرب

تعد إدارة النفايات الصلبة واحدة من المشكلات البيئية الرئيسية التي تهدد المملكة  المغربية. إذ تنتج هذه الأخيرة أكثر من 5 ملايين طن من النفايات الصلبة بمعدل نمو توليد النفايات السنوي وصل إلى 3 في المئة. و يعاني التخلص السليم من النفايات الصلبة البلدية في المغرب من أوجه قصور رئيسية  تتمثل في عدم وجود البنية التحتية المناسبة والتمويل المناسب في المناطق خارج المدن الرئيسية.

وقد أبان تقرير البنك الدولي،  على أنه في عام 2008، قبل الإصلاح الأخير  "لم يتم  جمع إلا 70 من المئة فقط من النفايات الصلبة البلدية في المدن وأن فقط  أقل من 10 من المئة من النفايات التي تم جمعها هي التي يجري التخلص منها بطريقة مقبولة بيئيا اجتماعيا. هذا مع وجود حوالي 300 مكب نفايات عشوائي، وحوالي 3500 جامع للنفايات، يشكل الأطفال 10 في المئة منهم ،  يعيشون داخل وحول هذه المكبات المفتوحة ".

خطر حرق النفايات

إنه لمن المألوف أن نرى حرق النفايات  كوسيلة للتخلص من النفايات الصلبة في المغرب. حاليا، يتم التخلص من النفايات البلدية  بطريقة هوجاء وغير مستدامة و التي لها آثار كبيرة على الصحة العامة والبيئة. فعدم وجود البنية التحتية لإدارة النفايات يؤدي إلى حرقها كشكل من أشكال التخلص من النفايات غير المكلفة. وللأسف، فإن الآثار الصحية الرئيسية لحرق النفايات هي، يا إما غير معروفة على نطاق واسع أومستهان بها بشكل صارخ  من طرف الغالبية العظمى من السكان في المغرب.

يشكل حرق النفايت مصدر قلق صحي خاص بسبب كمية الديوكسينات الكبيرة التي تنتج أثناء عملية الحرق. إذ يعد الديوكسين من الملوّثات البيئية شديدة السمية التي يتم تحريرها عند حرق النفايات المنزلية. أكثر الديوكسينات التي يتم إصدارها في الهواء أثناء عملية الحرق ينتهي بها المطاف إلى الترسب على أوراق النباتات الخضراء. وبالتالي دخولها في السلسلة الغذائية عبر أكلها من قبل  الحيوانات الحلوبة مثل الأبقار والأغنام والماعز مما ينتج عنه تخزين الديوكسينات وتراكمها في الأنسجة الدهنية لهاته الحيونات. و بمجرد حدوث ذلك، يصبح  من الصعب تجنب الديوكسينات  ويكون الإنسان ، في المقام الأول، الأكثر عرضة لخطر الديوكسينات من خلال تناوله اللحوم ومنتجات الألبان الأخرى، وخاصة تلك التي تحتوي على نسبة عالية من الدهون.

وعلاوة على ذلك، فإن هذا النوع من الحرق في الهواء الطلق يتسبب أيضا في تلوث الجسيمات. ويقصد بهذه الأخيرة، الجسيمات المجهرية التي ينتهي بها المطاف إلى الترسب في الرئتين وبالتالي تسببها في عدد  كبيرمن المشاكل الصحية للإنسان، مثل الربو والتهاب الشعب الهوائية. و للأسف، يعتبر الأطفال وكبار السن الذين يتعرضون للديوكسينات هم المهددون الأكثر بتلك الأمراض. عدا هذا، ينتج عن هذا الحرق مواد مسرطنة ضارة أخرى مثل الهيدروكربونات العطرية متعددة الحلقات، ثنائي الفينيل متعدد الكلور (PCB)، والمركبات العضوية المتطايرة، وسداسي كلورو البنزين .و من المعروف أن هذه  الملوّثات  تسبب مشاكل صحية عدة تتراوح بين تهيج الجلد إلى تلف الكبد والكلى وحتى في بعض الحالات الأكثر خطورة فقد تم ربطها بالسرطان.

و غالبا ما يحتوي الرماد، نفسه الناتج عن حرق النفايات، على الزئبق والرصاص والكروم والزرنيخ. "بإمكانية امتصاص و ومراكمة خضروات الحديقة  لهذه المعادن،  قد يشكل تناولها خطرا على الصحة. يمكن أيضا للأطفال الذين يلعبون في الساحة أو الحديقة أن يبتلعون، عن دون قصد، التربة التي تحتوي على هذه المعادن. أيضا، يمكن أن يجرف المطر الرماد إلى المياه الجوفية والمياه السطحية، و بذلك تتلوث مياه الشرب والغذاء. "هذا دون التطرق إلى فئة جامعي النفايات الذين يعرضون صحتهم مباشرة للخطر بفرزهم نفايات البلدية.

الجانب الإيجابي

إلا نه هناك خبر سار بخصوص مستقبل إدارة النفايات الصلبة في المغرب و الذي يتمثل في كون البنك الدولي قد خصص 271300000 دولار للحكومة المغربية من أجل وضع خطة إدارة النفايات البلدية . وتشمل تفاصيل الخطة استعادة حوالي 80 موقع دفن النفايات، وتحسين خدمات جمع النفايات، وزيادة إعادة التدوير بنسبة 20٪، وهذا كله بحلول عام 2020. في حين يتوقع  أن يصنع هذا الإصلاح المعجزات لسكان المناطق الحضرية فإن المرء يأمل أن تشمل فوائد هذا الإصلاح  فقط حوالي 43٪ من سكان المغرب الذين يعيشون في المناطق الريفية، مثل أولئك الذين يعيشون في قريتي.

ومما يعد من البديهيات، أنه وبالرغم من توجه المغرب نحو نظام إدارة ، أكثرصداقة للبيئة  وأكثر أمانا، للنفايات الصلبة، فإن عددا كبيرا من سكانه، بمن فيهم الأطفال وكبار السن، سيغفل عنهم هذا الإصلاح. و حتى يتم بذل المزيد من الجهد، بما في ذلك مبادرات التمويل وزيادة في التعليم، سيظل هؤلاء الناس عرضة لظروف معيشية حرجة بسبب التمويل غير المناسب، و وضعية البنية التحتية والتعليم.

 

ترجمة

هند سلامة، حاصلة على شهادة الدكتوراة تخصص الكيمياءـ البيئة من كلية العلوم عين الشق جامعة الحسن الثاني ـ المغرب، عملت كمديرة مشاريع في عدة مؤسسات و أعمل حاليا كمستشارة مستقلة في مجال البيئة و التنمية المستدامة و مترجمة  ، هذا عدا عن مساهماتي في البرنامج التطوعي للأمم المتحدة  UNVو متطوعة أيضا مع EcoMENA

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Solid Waste Management in Tunisia

Solid waste management has emerged as a big challenge for the Mediterranean country of Tunisia. The country, having an estimated population of around 11 million people, produces more than 2.5 million tons of garbage each year. Tunisia is experiencing an average increase in waste volume by 3% with per capita waste generation in urban areas being 0.8 kg per day. Biodegradable organic fraction constitutes around 68% of the MSW stream.

MSW collection is covered at 80% in urban areas and 10% in rural areas. The country has 10 controlled landfills with a capacity of 1,788,000 tons per year and four other semi-controlled landfills in the Valley Medjerda with a capacity of 62,000 tons per year. Five other discharges with a nominal capacity of 0.466 million tons per year are being built and finally five other controlled discharges are planned with an average capacity of 0.433 million tons per year. Many municipal landfills do not meet sanitary standards and waste is often dumped into non-sanitary areas. Interestingly, only five percent of MSW is composted and merely 4% recycled. The expenditure for waste collection and transport constitutes 75-100% of the total solid waste management budget.

Borj Chakir Landfill

Eight kilometers south of Tunis is Borj Chakir, a town that has become infamous for a landfill that has damaging effects on the surrounding environment and quality of life of locals. The Borj Chakir landfill created in 1999 is the largest dumping ground and only regulated landfill in Tunis (which includes the governorates of Tunis, Manouba, Ariana and Ben Arous). The site occupies 120 hectares of what was once agricultural land planted with olive trees and grains. According to the facility specifications published in 1997 the landfill at Borj Chakir is intended for solid waste but current activities shows it operation outside of norms. Over the years the residents of El Attar/Borj Chakir,Jiyara and Sidi Hassine have suffered from compromised health and sanitation as a consequence of the waste collection site that has contaminated air, water, soil and as a result of their exposure to toxic odors of leachate.

Recycling Situation

The country possesses comprehensive environmental laws to encourage the sustainable management and recycling of municipal and industrial waste but there is doubt if the necessary measures for a good application have been provided. The Tunisian Government is often criticized for leaving the responsibility of waste management to the National Waste Management Agency (ANGED).

Borj Chakir landfill is a major cause of environmental and public health concerns.

Every year Tunisians use one billion plastic bags generating 10,000 tons of waste that have wreaked havoc on the environment. Almost 400 Private Companies are authorized by the Ministry of Environment to collect, transport and recycle plastics. Five private collectors and recyclers of used tires were also authorized while paper and cardboard recycling is still in its infancy. There is also a small informal sector for recycling food packaging.

Future Outlook

After the Arab Spring, Tunisia faced additional challenges maintaining existing waste management practices due to repeated strikes and dysfunctioning of municipal and rural council which destabilized cleaning service. There is a general view among the populace that the way waste is managed should be changed towards an integrated management style which entails collection to treatment because of the relationship between environmental impact and effects on human health are apparent. The market for environmental protection, pollution control equipment and technology has significant potential as anticipated tenders for landfills, coastal pollution project and waste water treatment all offer good opportunity for procurement.  

Medical Waste Management in MENA

Healthcare sector in MENA region is growing at a very rapid pace, which in turn has led to tremendous increase in the quantity of medical waste generation by hospitals, clinics and other establishments. According to a recent Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs report, Egypt generated 28,300 tons of hazardous medical wastes in 2010. In the GCC region, more than 150 tons of medical waste is generated in GCC countries every day. Saudi Arabia leads the pack with daily healthcare waste generation of more than 80 tons. These figures are indicative of the magnitude of the problem faced by municipal authorities in dealing with medical waste disposal problem across the MENA region. 

Multitude of Problems

The growing amount of medical wastes is posing significant public health and environmental challenges in major cities of the region. The situation is worsened by improper disposal methods, insufficient physical resources, and lack of research on medical waste management. Improper management of medical wastes from hospitals, clinics and other facilities in MENA pose occupational and public health risks to patients, health workers, waste handlers, haulers and general public. It may also lead to contamination of air, water and soil which may affect all forms of life. In addition, if waste is not disposed of properly, ragpickers may collect disposable medical equipment (particularly syringes) and to resell these materials which may cause dangerous diseases.

Improper management of medical wastes from hospitals, clinics and other facilities in MENA pose occupational and public health risks to patients, health workers, waste handlers, haulers and general public. It may also lead to contamination of air, water and soil which may affect all forms of life. In addition, if waste is not disposed of properly, ragpickers may collect disposable medical equipment (particularly syringes) and to resell these materials which may cause dangerous diseases.

Medical waste management method in MENA is limited to either small-scale incineration or landfilling. The practice of landfilling of medical wastes is a matter of serious concern as it poses grave risks to public health, water resources, soil fertility as well as air quality. In many Middle East and North Africa countries, medical wastes is mixed with municipal solid wastes and/or industrial wastes which transforms medical wastes into a cocktail of dangerous substances. 

The WHO policy paper of 2004 and the Stockholm Convention, has stressed the need to consider the risks associated with the incineration of healthcare waste as a typical medical waste incinerator releases a wide variety of pollutants which may include particulate matter, heavy metals, acid gases, carbon monoxide and organic compounds. Sometimes pathogens may also be found in the solid residues and in the exhaust of poorly designed and badly operated incinerators. In addition, leachable organic compounds, like dioxins and heavy metals, are usually present in bottom ash residues. Due to these factors, many industrialized countries are phasing out healthcare incinerators and exploring technologies that do not produce any dioxins. Countries like United States, Ireland, Portugal, Canada and Germany have completely shut down or put a moratorium on medical waste incinerators. 

Promising Treatment Options

The alternative technologies for healthcare waste treatment are steam sterilization, advanced steam sterilization, microwave treatment, dry heat sterilization, alkaline hydrolysis, and biological treatment. Nowadays, steam sterilization (or autoclaving) is the most common alternative treatment method. Advanced autoclaves or advanced steam treatment technologies combine steam treatment with vacuuming, internal mixing or fragmentation, internal shredding, drying, and compaction thus leading to as much as 90% volume reduction. 

Microwave treatment is a promising technology in which treatment occurs through the introduction of moist heat and steam generated by microwave energy. Alkaline digestion is a unique type of chemical process that uses heated alkali to digest tissues, pathological waste, anatomical parts, or animal carcasses in heated stainless steel tanks. Biological processes, like composting and vermicomposting, can also be used to degrade organic matter in healthcare waste such as kitchen waste and placenta.

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Earth Day 2017: Environmental and Climate Literacy

The campaign theme for Earth Day 2017 is Environmental & Climate Literacy, and conservationists, researchers and educators will be using this Earth Day to increase awareness about climate change and environmental issues. Earth Day has now grown into a global environmental tradition making it the largest civic observance in the world and is widely celebrated event in which over one billion people from over 190 countries will participate by taking suitable actions for saving our mother Earth.

Significance of Climate Literacy

Education is the foundation for progress. We need to build a global citizenry fluent in the concepts of climate change and aware of its unprecedented threat to our planet. We need to empower everyone with the knowledge to inspire action in defense of environmental protection.

The campaign hopes to not only educate and inspire but also advance policies geared towards defending our environment and accelerating green jobs and technologies. To achieve these aims, Earth Day 2017 encourages everyone to gather with their communities for an Environmental & Climate Literacy Teach-In.

“Education is the foundation for progress,” Earth Day Network said on their website. “We need to build a global citizenry fluent in the concepts of climate change and aware of its unprecedented threat to our planet. We need to empower everyone with the knowledge to inspire action in defense of environmental protection.”

Environmental and climate literacy is the engine not only for green growth and advancing environmental and climate laws and policies but also for accelerating green technologies and jobs.

Time for Action

Planting trees and enhancing forest cover is critical work because it has the potential to restore land, benefit local communities, and combat climate change. In fact, poverty is linked to deforestation, and without tackling sectors like agriculture and forestry, it will be nearly impossible to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

Environmental education is the foundation for progress.

To help jumpstart Earth Day education efforts, the Earth Day Network has downloadable Earth Day Action Toolkits available that explain scientific and environmental crises caused by human actions. By providing this literature, the network is hoping to help enact change and take steps toward progress.

The Earth Day movement is continuing, entering the 47th year to inspire, challenge ideas, ignite passion, and motivate people to action. Let us contribute to the best of our capabilities. This initiative will make a significant and measurable impact on the Earth and will serve as the foundation of a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable planet for all.

You can also get involved by making small green changes in your lifestyle:

  • Walk to work, cycle or take public transport
  • Cut back on single use plastics
  • Recycle
  • Go paperless
  • Go meat or dairy free at least once a week
  • Plant a tree
  • Buy local produce

 

Guide to Green Hajj

The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is an annual pilgrimage to Makkah. It is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims which must be carried out at least once in lifetime by every adult Muslim who is physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey. The Hajj gathering is considered to be the largest gathering of people in the world whereby Muslims from many countries converge to do the religious rites.  Nearly three million Muslims perform Hajj each year. Making necessary arrangements each year for the growing number of pilgrims poses a gigantic logistic challenge for the Saudi Government and respective Authorities, as housing, transportation, sanitation, food and health care needs are to be provided to the pilgrims.

Environmental Footprint

The Hajj has an enormous environmental footprint. During Hajj, huge quantities of wastes are generated which needs to be appropriately collected, handled and managed. Other impacts are of water use and wastewater generation and treatment, transporting vehicles causing terrible air pollution damaging the health of the pilgrims, littering causing choking of public infrastructures, plastic bottles, used diapers, food packaging etc. are an eyesore. The problem is compounded due to ignorance, over enthusiasm, illiteracy of pilgrims and lack of commitment to handle the environmental resources.

Unfortunately, majority of the pilgrims are not aware of the innate nature of environmentalism within Islam and obligations of protecting the environment. According to the Quran, humans are entrusted to be the maintainers of the earth, its ecology and environment.The Hajj can be sustainable if the pilgrims behave in an environmental friendly manner and avoid different types of pollution.

A vast majority of Hajj pilgrims are not aware of the innate nature of environmentalism within Islam.

A vast majority of Hajj pilgrims are not aware of the innate nature of environmentalism within Islam.

Towards a Green Hajj

We need to understand that the respective authorities plan, spend and provide facilities to match with the number of pilgrims, but the irresponsible attitude of many people jeopardize the environmental resources. Following aspects will help the pilgrims in making their Hajj greener and help in conservation of resources:

  • Green purchasing, buy what is required and only environmentally–friendly products
  • Using minimum quantity of water for ablution, bath and personal use. Opening water gadgets and tap to allow limited flow. Washing clothes with minimum water.
  • Reporting any water leakages to the Authority.
  • Re-filling and reusing water bottles.
  • Buying food only what you can eat, surplus food should be avoided.
  • Avoiding food packaging.
  • Avoid disposable cutlery, plates, glasses etc.
  • Avoid littering, collecting all waste and disposing it at designated locations. 
  • Avoid using plastic shopping bags.
  • Moving and using group transport facilities.
  • Minimize electricity usage.
  • Avoid leaving lights on in empty rooms.
  • Switching off the chargers, once used.
  • Purchase energy efficient appliances, if required.
  • Avoid using electrical appliances on standby.

The recent Islamic declaration on climate change exhorts us to work steadfastly to minimize our ecological footrpint and make individual pledges to help our planet. Environment is Allah’s creation and has to be respected. Let us make our contribution to the Green Hajj and make a profound impact on the ecosystem, making it more sustainable and manageable and show that Islam is the ideal platform for ecological and environmental preservation.

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Energy Efficiency Perspectives for UAE

With Abu Dhabi alone on track to generate more than 10,000 megawatts of electricity for the first time, discussion about improving energy efficiency in the United Arab Emirates is taking on a more critical tone. Daytime energy use in the hot summer months is still experiencing rampant year-on-year growth, with peak demand this year growing by 12 per cent. Lying at the heart of these consumption levels is the need for air conditioning, which accounts for about half of total electricity demand.

Business and Government Action

At the commercial level, considerable steps are being taken to reduce the Emirate’s carbon footprint. A building insulation program in Dubai has resulted in claims that all buildings there have become twice as energy efficient since completion of the program. Further steps are also underway in other ecological areas such as water efficiency and waste management with the intention of ensuring the green credentials of every building meet international environmental standards and expectations.

At the official level the Emirates’ Authority for Standardization and Metrology continues to implement its Energy Efficiency Standardization and Labelling (EESL) program. This introduced specific efficiency and labelling requirements for non-ducted room air-conditioners in 2011.

These measures were joined this year by requirements under the same program for many other household electrical goods including lamps, washing machines and refrigerating appliances. The labelling requirements under this program will become mandatory by 2013 enabling consumers to see which machines are the most efficient and make sound environmental choices that will also save them money on running costs. The EESL programme will be further extended in 2013 to include ducted air-conditioners and chillers.

The UAE’s oil and gas sector also is recognising the importance of the energy efficiency agenda. It might seem counterintuitive that a sector with oil reserves of about 97 billion barrels and natural gas reserves of six trillion cubic meters should be thinking about how to save energy. The issue is that these reserves, despite their size, are not finite and that oil for export produces greater revenue generation than oil for the domestic market. It is, therefore, in the oil and gas sector’s interest to work with those trying to drive down domestic consumption, as it will maximise the sector’s longer term sustainability.  

The Emirates Energy Award was launched in 2007 to recognize the best implemented practices in energy conservation and management that showcase innovative, cost effective and replicable energy efficiency measures. Such acknowledged practices should manifest a sound impact on the Gulf region to stir energy awareness on a broad level and across the different facets of society.

Significance of Behavioural Change

As much as formal initiatives and programmes have their place in the battle for a more energy efficient UAE, there also needs to be a general shift in culture by the public. Improving public perception of green issues and encouraging behaviours that support energy efficiency can contribute significantly towards the overall goal. As fuel prices increase in the domestic market, the UAE’s citizens are already adding more weight to fuel efficiency when considering what cars they will buy.

SUVs and 4x4s might still be the biggest sellers but household budgets are becoming increasingly stretched and many ordinary citizens are looking for smaller more efficient cars. Perhaps for the first time, the entire running costs of cars are being considered and the UAE’s car dealers and their suppliers are looking to accommodate this change in their customers’ attitudes. This trend is so significant that some car dealerships are seeing large year-on-year increases in sales of their smaller, more efficient models.

Car rental companies are seeing this trend also and in Dubai, at least one is making hiring a car with green credentials more appealing to a wider cross-section of the public – offering everything from the more familiar Chevrolet Volts and Nissan Leafs to the most exotic hybrid and fully electric cars available to hire or lease.

Capitalising on these trends makes both environmental and business sense but economic drivers cannot alone be left to change public behaviour. There are really simple measures that government and business should be encouraging people to take. Some may argue that switching-off computers, lights and air-conditioning at the end of the working day may save energy but is not sufficiently worthwhile promoting – voluntary measures of this sort will not impact on overall energy trends.

There is evidence however that if these behaviours are added to measures like installing energy efficient lighting, lowering thermostats and optimising EESL five-star rated air-conditioners, the energy savings really do become significant – potentially halving a building’s energy consumption.

Conserving energy may not yet be a way of life in the UAE but the rapid changes being seen there are an indicator of what is to come. Formal energy efficiency programs and voluntary measures combined will help the UAE maintain its economic strength in the region and because of this it is one agenda that will not be going away.

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CSP-Powered Desalination Prospects in MENA

Conventional large-scale desalination is cost-prohibitive and energy-intensive, and not viable for poor countries in the MENA region due to increasing costs of fossil fuels. In addition, the environmental impacts of desalination are considered critical on account of GHG emissions from energy consumption and discharge of brine into the sea. The negative effects of desalination can be minimized, to some extent, by using renewable energy to power the plants.

What is Concentrated Solar Power

The core element of Concentrated Solar Power Plant is a field of large mirrors reflecting captured rays of sun to a small receiver element, thus concentrating the solar radiation intensity by several 100 times and generating very high temperature (more than 1000 °C). This resultant heat can be either used directly in a thermal power cycle based on steam turbines, gas turbines or Stirling engines, or stored in molten salt, concrete or phase-change material to be delivered later to the power cycle for night-time operation. CSP plants also have the capability alternative hybrid operation with fossil fuels, allowing them to provide firm power capacity on demand. The capacity of CSP plants can range from 5 MW to several hundred MW.

Three types of solar collectors are utilized for large-scale CSP power generation – Parabolic Trough, Fresnel and Central Receiver Systems. Parabolic trough systems use parabolic mirrors to concentrate solar radiation on linear receivers which moves with the parabolic mirror to track the sun from east to west. In a Fresnel system, the parabolic shape of the trough is split into several smaller, relatively flat mirror segments which are connected at different angles to a rod-bar that moves them simultaneously to track the sun. Central Receiver Systems consists of two-axis tracking mirrors, or heliostats, which reflect direct solar radiation onto a receiver located at the top of a tower.

Theoretically, all CSP systems can be used to generate electricity and heat.  All are suited to be combined with membrane and thermal desalination systems. However, the only commercially available CSP plants today are linear concentrating parabolic trough systems because of lower cost, simple construction, and high efficiency

CSP-Powered Desalination Prospects in MENA

A recent study by International Energy Agency found that the six biggest users of desalination in MENA––Algeria, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates––use approximately 10 percent of the primary energy for desalination. Infact, desalination accounted for more than 4 percent of the total electricity generated in the MENA region in 2010. With growing desalination demand, the major impact will be on those countries that currently use only a small proportion of their energy for desalination, such as Jordan and Algeria.

The MENA region has tremendous wind and solar energy potential which can be effectively utilized in desalination processes. Concentrating solar power (CSP) offers an attractive option to power industrial-scale desalination plants that require both high temperature fluids and electricity.  CSP can provide stable energy supply for continuous operation of desalination plants based on thermal or membrane processes. Infact, several countries in the region, such as Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco are already developing large CSP solar power projects.

Concentrating solar power offers an attractive option to run industrial-scale desalination plants that require both high temperature fluids and electricity.  Such plants can provide stable energy supply for continuous operation of desalination plants based on thermal or membrane processes. The MENA region has tremendous solar energy potential that can facilitate generation of energy required to offset the alarming freshwater deficit. The virtually unlimited solar irradiance in the region will ensure large-scale deployment of eco-friendly desalination systems, thereby saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

Several countries in the MENA region – Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia – have joined together to expedite the deployment of concentrated solar power (CSP) and exploit the region's vast solar energy resources. One of those projects is a series of massive solar farms spanning the Middle East and North Africa. Two projects under this Desertec umbrella are Morocco’s Ouarzazate Concentrated Solar Power plant, which was approved in late 2011, and Tunisia’s TuNur Concentrated Solar Power Plant, which was approved in January 2012. The Moroccan plant will have a 500-MW capacity, while the Tunisia plant will have a 2 GW capacity. Jordan is also making rapid strides with several mega CSP projects under development in Maa’n Development Area. 

Conclusions

Seawater desalination powered by concentrated solar power offers an attractive opportunity for MENA countries to ensure affordable, sustainable and secure freshwater supply. The growing water deficit in the MENA region is fuelling regional conflicts, political instability and environmental degradation. It is expected that the energy demand for seawater desalination for urban centres and mega-cities will be met by ensuring mass deployment of CSP-powered systems across the region. Considering the severe consequence of looming water crisis in the MENA region it is responsibility of all regional governments to devise a forward-looking regional water policy to facilitate rapid deployment and expansion of CSP and other clean energy resources for seawater desalination.

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Vanishing Aquifers in MENA

aquifer-menaAquifers are of tremendous importance for the MENA as world's most water-stressed countries are located in the region, including Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iran, Lebanon and Yemen. However, aquifers in MENA are coming under increasing strain and are in real danger of extinction. Eight aquifers systems, including those in MENA, are categorized as ‘over stressed’ aquifers with hardly any natural recharge to offset the water consumed.

Aquifers in MENA

Aquifers stretched beneath Saudi Arabia and Yemen ranks first among ‘overstressed’ aquifers followed by Indus Basin of northwestern India-Pakistan and then by Murzuk-Djado Basin in North Africa. The Nubian Sandstone Aquifer in the Eastern end of Sahara deserts (parts of Sudan, Chad, Libya and most of Egypt) is the world’s largest known ‘fossil’ aquifer system and Bas Sahara basin (most of Algeria-Tunisian Sahara, Morocco and Libya) encloses whole of the Grand Erg Oriental. The non-renewable aquifers in the Middle East are the Arabian Aquifer and The Mountain Aquifer between Israel and Palestine. Some parts in MENA like Egypt and Iraq rely on major rivers (Nile, Tigris and Euphrates) but these surface water flows does not reach the ocean now. Needless to say, water demand in arid and dry MENA countries is met primarily by aquifers and seawater desalination.

MENA region is the most water-scarce region of the world. The region is home to 6.3 percent of world’s population but has access to measly 1.4 percent of the world’s renewable fresh water. The average water availability per person in other geographical regions is about 7,000 m3/year, whereas water availability is merely 1,200 m3/person/year in the MENA region. The region has the highest per capita rates of freshwater extraction in the world (804 m3/year) and currently exploits over 75 percent of its renewable water resources.

Primarily global exploitation of groundwater is for agricultural irrigation. In Saudi Arabia, during 1970’s, landowners were given free subsidies to pump the aquifers for improvisation of agricultural sectors. Soon the country turned out to be world’s premium wheat exporters. But as years passed, water consumption was high in such a rate that the aquifers approached total depletion. Government announced peoples demand to be met by desalination, which is an expensive approach to meet agricultural sector requirement. By end of 1990’s agricultural land declined to less than half of the country’s farm land. Saudi Arabia is no more a wheat exporter rather relies almost entirely on imported crop from other countries. Unfortunately, country has exploited nonrenewable and ancient ‘fossil’ aquifers which could not be recharged by any form of precipitation.

Key Issues

Stress on a country’s agricultural and water resources majorly cause problems in human health as well as instability and conflicts over shared resources. Climate change has also exacerbated water availability in the Middle East. Infact, water stresses has triggered brutal civil war in Syria and worsened the Palestine-Israel conflicts over sharing aquifers. The key issues, according to World Bank, in water utilization in MENA are as follows:

  • Unsustainable and inefficient use: Middle East countries have the highest per capita consumption of domestic water in the world with 40-50% leakage in the urban systems. And 50% water withdrawn for agriculture does not reach as intended.
  • Ineffective policies: the countries diverts 85% of water to grow crops which would be better importing.
  • Deteriorating water quality: contaminated water systems due to insufficient sanitation infrastructure has caused negative impacts on environment and health issues. Like, in Iran where issues associated with inadequate waste water collection and treatment cost estimated 2.2% of GDP.
  • Excessive reliance on the public investment on water accounts for 1-5 percent of GDP.

In MENA an unexpected climate change is likely to bring 20% rainfall reduction and high rate of evaporation which intensifies water stress. And proportionate climate initiated human behavior, more it gets dry, less water in the river, more tendencies to substitute by groundwater. Also depletion of water below the ground will rise to other disasters like sea water intrusion, land subsidence, especially in Arabian Peninsula, in turn destroys the constructions, infrastructures and developments of the country made-up till date.

Tips to Save Aquifers

We do not know how much water is remaining beneath, but we must understand it is vanishing at a very high rate. MENA must treasure aquifers and natural water resource as same as oil reserves are valued. Individual can play a significant role in saving aquifers in MENA by adopting these simple water conservation guidelines

  • Do not drain cooking oil or grease into sink; use adequate amount, reuse like as a shovel cleaner, polish or donate to machinery shops.
  • Effective use of tap; do not run water while brushing. During winters, store the initial cold water that runs out of the tap prior to the hot water from heater. And also know the convenient tap adjustments.
  • Maintain healthy, hygienic and sanitation practices.
  • Replace conventional water pumps and home appliances with advanced water conservative ones.
  • Avoid unnecessary products, food materials and reduce wastage; water consumed in a diet account’s 92% of water footprint of an individual.
  • Avoid sprinklers for irrigation and in garden use to avoid water loss by evaporation and substitute with efficient water distribution system.

By nature, water is definite in this ‘blue planet’. But when there is no right quantity of water at right quality and time it is called ‘Crisis’.

 

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Leakage Control: Effective Tool for Water Conservation

water-leakageWater is a basic need of our life and is amply provided by the Governmental agencies. However, we as consumers do not prioritize on water wastage and leakages issue due to the subsidized water cost. The leakages from taps, valves and appurtenant are often noticed but the invisible leakages under the sink often goes un-noticed and drips occurring are not taken seriously and addressed till the leakage get larger and leak get worse.

The Menace of Water Leaks

Water leaks from pipes, plumbing fixtures, faucets, valves and fittings are a common sight in buildings and structures and is a significant source of water wastage.  Only a small drip from a worn faucet washer can waste around 75 liters of water per day. Thus, we need to check all the water pipes and fittings regularly to assess their operational status and any leak occurring should be urgently repaired or replaced.

Leaks from pipes, plumbing fixtures and fittings are a significant source of water wastage for many households.  Research has shown that the typical home can lose 7.6 m3 to 76 m3 of water per year due to leaks. Some leaks are obvious, such as dripping faucets and leaking water heaters. Unfortunately, many leaks go undetected for years because the source of the leak is not visible. Faucet leaks are a common occurrence and usually simple to repair.  A faucet dripping slowly at only one drop every two seconds will waste more than 1,000 gallons or 3.7 m3 per year.   

Toilets are another common source of leaks in the home, and usually go unnoticed because the leaks are often silent and out of view.  Several research studies have found 20% to 35% of all residential toilets leak to some degree. Large toilet leaks can be detected when the valve constantly emits a hissing or gurgling sound when the toilet is not in use.

Detection of Water Leakages

We frequently see dripping and leaking water gadgets, pipes and toilets but do not take any action for its correction, mainly because of our attitude and lack of awareness. It is now important to inspect our water gadgets, pipes and fittings in our home, dwelling and place of work or study and take corrective actions. For checking the water leakages, first note water meter reading. Re-check again after two hours with all water gadgets are shut. If the meter does not read exactly the same, you probably have a leak in the system whereby water is being wasted for which you have to pay the cost which will be increasing with time. 

If your toilet is leaking, the cause is often an old, faulty rubber packing/ washer which decay with number of uses or minerals build up on it. Replacing the damaged rubber packing is inexpensive and can be done easily. Another way to find out if you have a toilet leak is to place a drop of color dye in the toilet tank. If the color shows up in the bowl within 15 minutes without flushing, you have a leak. Make sure to flush water immediately after this experiment to avoid staining the tank and toilet.

Conclusion

Potable water is supplied to our homes, offices and institutions after abstraction, treatment and through long distribution and pumping network and entails huge cost which is heavily subsidized by the Government. It is high time that we consider water conservation as a priority step and avoid any water wastage and leakages at home, offices and institutions.  

The time is now to deal with our water leaks promptly and giving it a priority. Remember- fixing leaks will save money, is good for the environment and will save our limited water resources.  

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MSW Generation in the Middle East

The high rate of population growth, urbanization and economic expansion in the Middle East is not only accelerating consumption rates but also increasing the generation rate of all  sorts of waste. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait rank in the top-ten worldwide in terms of per capita solid waste generation. The gross urban waste generation quantity from Middle East countries has crossed 150 million tons per annum.The world’s dependence on Middle East energy resources has caused the region to have some of the largest carbon footprints per capita worldwide. The region is now gearing up to meet the challenge of global warming, as with the rapid growth of the waste management sector. During the last few years, UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have unveiled multi-billion dollar investment plans to Improve waste management scenario in their respective countries. 

Solid Waste Generation Statistics

Saudi Arabia produce more than 15 million tons of garbage each year. With an approximate population of about 28 million, the country produces approximately 1.3 kilograms of waste per person every day. More than 5,000 tons of urban waste is generated in the city of Jeddah alone. 

The per capita MSW generation rate  in the United Arab Emirates ranges from 1.76 to 2.3 kg/day. According to a recent study, the amount of solid waste in UAE totaled 4.892 million tons, with a daily average of 6935 tons in the city of Abu Dhabi, 4118 tons in Al Ain and 2349 tons in the western region.

Qatar's annual waste generation stands at 2.5 million tons while Kuwait produces 2 million tons MSW per annum. Bahrain generates more than 1.5 million tons of municipal waste every year. Countries like Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar have astonishingly high per capita waste generation rate, primarily because of high standard of living and lack of awarness about sustainable waste management practices.

Country

MSW Generation

(million tons per annum)

Saudi Arabia

13

UAE

5

Qatar

2.5

Kuwait

2

Bahrain

1.5

In addition, huge quantity of sewage sludge is produced on daily basis which presents a serious problem due to its high treatment costs and risk to environment, human health and marine life. On an average, the rate of municipal wastewater generation in the Middle East is 80-200 litres per person per day. Cities in the region are facing increasing difficulties in treating sewage, as has been the case in Jeddah where 500,000 cubic metre of raw sewage is discarded in Buraiman Lake daily. Sewage generation across the region is rising by an astonishing rate of 25 percent every year which is bound to create major headaches for urban planners. 

Waste-to-Energy for the Middle East

Municipal solid waste in the Middle East is comprised of organic fraction, paper, glass, plastics, metals, wood etc which can be managed by making use of recycling, composting and/or waste-to-energy technologies. The composting process is a complex interaction between the waste and the microorganisms within the waste. Central composting plants are capable of handling more than 100,000 tons of biodegradable waste per year, but typically the plant size is about 10,000 to 30,000 tons per year.

Municipal solid waste can be converted into energy by conventional technologies (such as incineration, mass-burn and landfill gas capture) or by modern conversion systems (such as anaerobic digestion, gasification and pyrolysis). The three principal methods of thermochemical conversion are combustion (in excess air), gasification (in reduced air), and pyrolysis (in absence of air). The most common technique for producing both heat and electrical energy from urban wastes is direct combustion. Combined heat and power (CHP) or cogeneration systems, ranging from small-scale technology to large grid-connected facilities, provide significantly higher efficiencies than systems that only generate electricity. 

At the landfill sites, the gas produced by the natural decomposition of MSW can be collected from the stored material and scrubbed and cleaned before feeding into internal combustion engines or gas turbines to generate heat and power. In addition, the organic fraction of MSW can be anaerobically stabilized in a high-rate digester to obtain biogas for electricity or steam generation. 

Anaerobic digestion is the most preferred option to extract energy from sewage, which leads to production of biogas and organic fertilizer. The sewage sludge that remains can be incinerated or gasified/pyrolyzed to produce more energy. In addition, sewage-to-energy processes also facilitate water recycling. Infact, energy recovery from MSW is rapidly gaining worldwide recognition as the 4th R in sustainable waste management system – Reuse, Reduce, Recycle and Recover.

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Medical Waste Management: An Infographic

Healthcare sector in the Middle East is growing at a very rapid pace, which in turn has led to tremendous increase in the quantity of medical waste generation by hospitals, clinics and other establishments. The growing amount of medical waste in Middle East is posing significant public health and environmental challenges across the region. The situation is worsened by improper disposal methods, insufficient physical resources, and lack of research on medical waste management.

This infographic will provide more insights into medical waste management situation in the Middle East.