Saudi Arabia Biorefinery from Algae (SABA) Project

The King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology (KACST) is funding an innovative project called Saudi Arabia Biorefinery from Algae (SABA Project) to screen for lipid hyper-producers species in Saudi Arabia coastal waters. These species will be the basis for next-generation algal biofuel production. The goal of this project is to increase research and training in microalgae-based biofuel production as well algal biomass with an additional goal of using a biorefinery approach that could strongly enhance Saudi Arabia economy, society and environment within the next 10 years.

The primary mission of the SABA project is to develop the Algae Based Biorefinery – ABB biotechnology putting into operation innovative, sustainable, and commercially viable solutions for green chemistry, energy, bio-products, water conservation, and CO2 abatement. Microalgae are known sources of high-value biochemicals such as vitamins, carotenoids, pigments and anti-oxidants. Moreover, they can be feedstocks of bulk biochemicals like protein and carbohydrates that can be used in the manufacture of feed and food.

The strategic plan for SABA project is based on the achievement of the already ongoing applied Research, Technology Development & Demonstration (RTD&D) to the effective use of microalgae biomass production and downstream extraction in a diversified way, e.g. coupling the biomass production with wastewater bioremediation or extracting sequentially different metabolites form the produced biomass (numerous fatty acids, proteins, bioactive compounds etc.). This interdisciplinary approach including algal biology, genetic engineering and technologies for algae cultivation, harvesting, and intermediate and final products extraction is crucial for the successful conversion of the developed technologies into viable industries.

The first phase of this project entitled “Screening for lipid hyper-producers species in Saudi Arabia coastal waters for Biofuel production from micro-Algae” will build the basis for large scale system to produce diesel fuel and other products from algae grown in the ocean with a strong emphasis on building know-how and training. It will ultimately produce competitively priced biofuel, scaling up carbon capture for a range of major environmental, economic, social and climate benefits in the Kingdom and elsewhere. The project lends itself to an entrepreneurial new venture, working in partnership with existing firms in the oil and gas industry, in energy generation, in water supply and sanitation, in shipping and in food and pharmaceutical production.

The project is gaining from cross-disciplinary cutting edge Research, Technology Development & Demonstration for the industrial implementation of the fourth generation algae-based Biorefinery. The technology development is supported by a consortium of engineers, researchers in cooperation with industry players (to ensure technology transfer), international collaborators (to ensure knowledge transfer) and the Riyadh Techno Valley (to promote spin-off and commercialization of results). 

Since the research topic is innovative in the Kingdom research circles, a strong research partnership was promptly developed by the King Saud University / King Abdulah Institute for Nanotechnology with international distinguished research centers with proved successful experience in this technology development. The Centre of Marine Science (CCMAR) and the Institute of Biotechnology and Bioengineering (IBB) both from Portugal are a guarantee to the successful research-based technology development in the SABA project development and the effective capacity-building for Saudi young researchers and technicians.

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What are Biofuels

The term ‘Biofuel’ refers to liquid or gaseous fuels for the transport sector that are predominantly produced from biomass. A variety of fuels can be produced from biomass resources including liquid fuels, such as ethanol, methanol, biodiesel, Fischer-Tropsch diesel, and gaseous fuels, such as hydrogen and methane. The biomass resource base for biofuel production is composed of a wide variety of forestry and agricultural resources, industrial processing residues, municipal solid wastes and urban wood residues.

The agricultural resources include grains used for biofuels production, animal manures and residues, and crop residues derived primarily from corn and small grains (e.g., wheat straw). A variety of regionally significant crops, such as cotton, sugarcane, rice, and fruit and nut orchards can also be a source of crop residues. The forest resources include residues produced during the harvesting of forest products, fuelwood extracted from forestlands, residues generated at primary forest product processing mills, and forest resources that could become available through initiatives to reduce fire hazards and improve forest health. Municipal and urban wood residues are widely available and include a variety of materials — yard and tree trimmings, land-clearing wood residues, wooden pallets, organic wastes, packaging materials, and construction and demolition debris.

Globally, biofuels are commonly used to power vehicles, heat homes, and for cooking. Biofuel industries are expanding in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Biofuels are generally considered as offering many priorities, including sustainability, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, regional development, social structure and agriculture, and security of supply. 

First Generation Biofuels

First-generation biofuels are made from sugar, starch, vegetable oil, or animal fats using conventional technology. The basic feedstocks for the production of first-generation biofuels come from agriculture and food processing. The most common first-generation biofuels are:

  • Biodiesel: extraction with or without esterification of vegetable oils from seeds of plants like soybean, oil palm, oilseed rape and sunflower or residues including animal fats derived from rendering applied as fuel in diesel engines
  • Bioethanol: fermentation of simple sugars from sugar crops like sugarcane or from starch crops like maize and wheat applied as fuel in petrol engines
  • Bio-oil: thermo-chemical conversion of biomass. A process still in the development phase
  • Biogas: anaerobic fermentation or organic waste, animal manures, crop residues an energy crops applied as fuel in engines suitable for compressed natural gas.


First-generation biofuels can be used in low-percentage blends with conventional fuels in most vehicles and can be distributed through existing infrastructure. Some diesel vehicles can run on 100 % biodiesel, and ‘flex-fuel’ vehicles are already available in many countries around the world.

Second Generation Biofuels

Second-generation biofuels are derived from non-food feedstock including lignocellulosic biomass like crop residues or wood. Two transformative technologies are under development.

  • Biochemical: modification of the bio-ethanol fermentation process including a pre-treatment procedure
  • Thermochemical: modification of the bio-oil process to produce syngas and methanol, Fisher-Tropsch diesel or dimethyl ether (DME).

Advanced conversion technologies are needed for a second generation of biofuels. The second generation technologies use a wider range of biomass resources – agriculture, forestry and waste materials. One of the most promising second-generation biofuel technologies – ligno-cellulosic processing (e. g. from forest materials) – is already well advanced. Demonstration plants have already been established in Denmark, Spain and Sweden.

Third Generation Biofuels

Third-generation biofuels may include production of bio-based hydrogen for use in fuel cell vehicles from microalgae. The production of Algae fuel, also called Oilgae is supposed to be low cost and high-yielding – giving up to nearly 30 times the energy per unit area as can be realized from current, conventional ‘first-generation’ biofuel feedstocks. Algaculture can be an attractive route to making vegetable oil, biodiesel, bioethanol and other biofuels.

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Biomass Potential of Date Palm Wastes

Date palm is one of the principal agricultural products in the arid and semi-arid region of the world, especially Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. There are more than 120 million date palm trees worldwide yielding several million tons of dates per year, apart from secondary products including palm midribs, leaves, stems, fronds and coir. The Arab world has more than 84 million date palm trees with the majority in Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates.

Egypt is the world’s largest date producer with annual production of 1.47 million tons of dates in 2012 which accounted for almost one-fifth of global production. Saudi Arabia has more than 23 millions date palm trees, which produce about 1 million tons of dates per year. Date palm trees produce huge amount of agricultural wastes in the form of dry leaves, stems, pits, seeds etc. A typical date tree can generate as much as 20 kilograms of dry leaves per annum while date pits account for almost 10 percent of date fruits. Some studies have reported that Saudi Arabia alone generates more than 200,000 tons of date palm biomass each year.

Date palm is considered a renewable natural resource because it can be replaced in a relatively short period of time. It takes 4 to 8 years for date palms to bear fruit after planting, and 7 to 10 years to produce viable yields for commercial harvest. Usually date palm wastes are burned in farms or disposed in landfills which cause environmental pollution in date-producing nations. In countries like Iraq and Egypt, a small portion of palm biomass in used in making animal feed.

The major constituents of date palm biomass are cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin. In addition, date palm has high volatile solids content and low moisture content. These factors make date palm biomass an excellent waste-to-energy resource in the MENA region. A wide range of thermal and biochemical technologies exists to convert the energy stored in date palm biomass to useful forms of energy. The low moisture content in date palm wastes makes it well-suited to thermo-chemical conversion technologies like combustion, gasification and pyrolysis.

On the other hand, the high volatile solids content in date palm biomass indicates its potential towards biogas production in anaerobic digestion plants, possibly by codigestion with sewage sludge, animal wastes and/and food wastes. The cellulosic content in date palm wastes can be transformed into biofuel (bioethanol) by making use of the fermentation process. Thus, abundance of date palm trees in the GCC, especially Saudi Arabia, can catalyze the development of biomass and biofuels sector in the region.

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A Primer on Biodiesel

Biodiesel is a clean burning alternative fuel produced from domestic, renewable resources. The fuel is a mixture of fatty acid alkyl esters made from vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled greases. Where available, biodiesel can be used in compression-ignition (diesel) engines in its pure form with little or no modifications.

Biodiesel is simple to use, biodegradable, nontoxic, and essentially free of sulphur and aromatics. It is usually used as a petroleum diesel additive to reduce levels of particulates, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and toxics from diesel-powered vehicles. When used as an additive, the resulting diesel fuel may be called B5, B10 or B20, representing the percentage of the biodiesel that is blended with petroleum diesel.

Biodiesel is produced through a process in which organically derived oils are combined with alcohol (ethanol or methanol) in the presence of a catalyst to form ethyl or methyl ester. The biomass-derived ethyl or methyl esters can be blended with conventional diesel fuel or used as a neat fuel (100% biodiesel). Biodiesel can be made from any vegetable oil, animal fats, waste vegetable oils, or microalgae oils. There are three basic routes to biodiesel production from oils and fats:

  • Base catalyzed trans-esterification of the oil
  • Direct acid catalyzed trans-esterification of the oil
  • Conversion of the oil to its fatty acids and then to biodiesel.

There are a variety of oils that are used to produce biodiesel, the most common ones being soybean, rapeseed, and palm oil which make up the majority of worldwide biodiesel production. Other feedstock can come from waste vegetable oil, jatropha, mustard, flax, sunflower, palm oil or hemp. Animal fats including tallow, lard, yellow grease, chicken fat and fish oil by-products may contribute a small percentage to biodiesel production in the future, but it is limited in supply and inefficient to raise animals for their fat. Jatropha is a small pest- and drought -resistant shrub that is capable of being grown on marginal/degraded land and produces seeds that yield several times more oil per acre than soybeans.

Biodiesel can be blended in any proportion with mineral diesel to create a biodiesel blend or can be used in its pure form. Just like petroleum diesel, biodiesel operates in the compression ignition (diesel) engine, and essentially requires very little or no engine modifications because the biodiesel has properties similar to mineral diesel. It can be stored just like mineral diesel and hence does not require separate infrastructure. The use of biodiesel in conventional diesel engines results in substantial reduction in the emission of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulates. There are currently a large number of existing biodiesel production plants globally, and a large number under construction or planned to supply the growing global demand.

Among alternative feedstocks, algae holds enormous potential to provide a non-food, high-yield, non-arable land use source of biodiesel, ethanol and hydrogen fuels. Microalgae have been grabbing biofuel attention because on an acre-by-acre basis, microalgae can produce 100 to 300 times the oil yield of soybeans on marginal land and with salt water. Microalgae is the fastest growing photosynthesizing organism and is capable of completing an entire growing cycle every few days.

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Jatropha’s Relevance for MENA

Jatropha is a genus of nearly 175 species of shrubs, low-growing plants, and trees.  However, discussions of Jatropha as a biodiesel are actually means a particular species of the plant, Jatropha curcas. The plant is indigenous to parts of Central America, however it has spread to other tropical and subtropical regions in Africa and Asia.

Jatropha curcas is a perennial shrub that, on average, grows approximately three to five meters in height. It has smooth grey bark with large and pale green leaves. The plant produces flowers and fruits are produced in winter or throughout the year depending on temperature and soil moisture. The curcas fruit contains 37.5 percent shell and 62.5 percent seed.  Jatropha curcas can be grown from either seed or cutting.

By virtue of being a member of the Euphorbiaceae family, Jatropha has a high adaptability for thriving under a wide range of physiographic and climatic conditions. It is found to grow in all most all parts of the country up to an elevation 3000 feet. Jatropha is suitable for all soils including degraded and barren lands, and is a perennial occupying limited space and highly suitable for intercropping.

Extensive research has shown that Jatropha requires low water and fertilizer for cultivation, is not grazed by cattle or sheep, is pest resistant, is easily propagated, has a low gestation period, and has a high seed yield and oil content, and produces high protein manure. Sewage effluents provide a good source of water and nutrients for cultivating Jatropha, though there are some risk of salinization in arid regions.

Pongamia pinnata or Karanj is another promising non-edible oil seed plant that can be utilized for oil extraction for biofuels. The plant is a native of India and grows in dry places far in the interior and up to an elevation of 1000 meters. Pongamia plantation is not much known as like Jatropha, but the cost effectiveness of this plant makes it more preferred than other feedstock. Pongamia requires about four to five times lesser inputs and giver two to three times more yield than Jatropha which makes it quite suitable for small farmers. However, Pongamia seeds have about 5-10 percent less oil content than Jatropha and the plant requires longer period to grow as the gestation period is about 6-8 years for Pongamia against 3-5 years in Jatropha

To conclude, Jatropha can be successfully grown in arid regions of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) for biodiesel production. These energy crops are highly useful in preventing soil erosion and shifting of sand-dunes. The production of sewage-irrigated energy crops has good potential to secure additional water treatment and thus reduce adverse environmental impacts of sewage disposal. Countries in the Middle East, like Eqypt, Libya, Sudan, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, are well-suited to the growth of Jatropha plantations. Infact, Jatropha is already grown at limited scale in some Middle East countries, especially Egypt,  and tremendous potential exists for its commercial exploitation.

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Alternative Energy Prospects in Morocco

Morocco, being the largest energy importer in North Africa, is making concerted efforts to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels. The country currently imports 95% of its energy needs which creates strong dependence on foreign energy imports. Renewable energy is an attractive proposition as Morocco has almost complete dependence on imported energy carriers. Morocco is already spending over US$3 billion a year on fuel and electricity imports and is experiencing power demand growth of 6.5 per cent a year. Morocco is investing heavily in the power sector by building new power plants such as expansion of coal power plant in JorfLasfer and establishment new coal power plant near Safi.

According to the Moroccan Ministry of Energy and Mining, the total installed capacity of renewable energy (excluding hydropower) was approximately 300MW in 2011. The Moroccan Government has already achieved its target of supplying around 8% of total primary energy from renewables by 2012 which includes energy generation, conversion and distribution. Morocco is planning USD13 billion expansion of wind, solar and hydroelectric power generation capacity which would catapult the share of renewables in the energy mix to 42% by the year 2020, with solar, wind and hydro each contributing 14%. 

Wind Energy

The technical potential of wind energy in Morocco is estimated to be 25 GW. This is the equivalent to 5 times the current installed power capacity in Morocco, and reflects the huge potential in this clean energy source. Morocco has already installed almost 300 MW wind turbines and other projects are being implemented. At the same time, Morocco launched a wind energy plan consisting in the installation of 2000 MW by 2020. Many experts state that Morocco will install total capacities beyond this plan. In fact, wind energy is already cost competitive with respect to conventional energy resources, and due to the technological progress, the cost is even being reduced significantly. Most of the already implemented projects and those being implemented or planned, are developed by public organisations or within the framework of agreements with public organisations.

Solar Energy

The German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ) estimated the potential of solar energy in Morocco to be equivalent to 1500 times the national consumption of electricity. Morocco has invested in solar home systems (SHS) to electrify households in the rural areas. Morocco has launched one of the world’s largest and most ambitious solar energy plan with investment of USD 9billion. The Ain Beni Mather Integrated Solar Thermal Combined Cycle Power Station is one of the most promising solar power projects in Africa.  The plant combines solar power and thermal power, and is expected to reach production capacity of 250MW by the end of 2012. y building mega-scale solar power projects at five location — Laayoune (Sahara), Boujdour (Western Sahara), Tarfaya (south of Agadir), Ain Beni Mathar (center) and Ouarzazate — with modern solar thermal, photovoltaic and concentrated solar power mechanisms.


Morocco is planning to add a total of 2 GW new hydropower capacities, consisting mainly in small and medium stations. This plan should be achieved by 2020, and combined with 2 GW solar energy and 2 GW wind energy capacities would, add a total 6GW renewable energy capacities, which will supply 42% of the Moroccan electricity in 2020. 

Biomass Energy

Unfortunately there is no national strategy to exploit biomass energy in Morocco. However, there are many potential projects which could promote biomass energy sector in the country, such as waste-to-energy, biofuels and biogas from abundant feedstock like solid wastes, crop wastes, industrial wastes etc. The agronomic research has demonstrated the adaptability of new energetic plants to the arid zones. These plants such as Jatropha urcas, could be cultivated in the arid zone in Morocco, and be exploited for biofuels production and as a green barrier against desertification. Like solar and wind, the biomass energy sector also requires support and investment from the government and private sector.


Morocco is endowed with tremendous alternative energy resources which can be exploited to meet national energy requirements as well as export of surplus power to neighbouring countries. Due to its geographical position, Morocco could be a hub for renewable energy exchange between the European Union and North Africa. Renewable energy sector can create good employment opportunities and can also strengthen country’s economy. However, the government should liberalize renewable energy market, encourage public-private partnership and create mass environmental awareness to increase the share of renewable in the national energy mix.

Introduction to Biorefinery

A biorefinery is a facility that integrates biomass conversion processes and equipment to produce fuels, power, and value-added chemicals from biomass. Biorefinery is analogous to today’s petroleum refinery, which produces multiple fuels and products from petroleum. By producing several products, a biorefinery takes advantage of the various components in biomass and their intermediates, therefore maximizing the value derived from the biomass feedstock.

A biorefinery could, for example, produce one or several low-volume, but high-value, chemical products and a low-value, but high-volume liquid transportation fuel such as biodiesel or bioethanol. At the same time, it can generate electricity and process heat, through CHP technology, for its own use and perhaps enough for sale of electricity to the local utility. The high value products increase profitability, the high-volume fuel helps meet energy needs, and the power production helps to lower energy costs and reduce GHG emissions from traditional power plant facilities.

Working of a Biorefinery

There are several platforms which can be used in a biorefinery with the major ones being the sugar platform and the thermochemical platform (also known as syngas platform).

Sugar platform biorefineries breaks down biomass into different types of component sugars for fermentation or other biological processing into various fuels and chemicals. On the other hand, thermochemical biorefineries transform biomass into synthesis gas (hydrogen and carbon monoxide) or pyrolysis oil.

The thermochemical biomass conversion process is complex, and uses components, configurations, and operating conditions that are more typical of petroleum refining. Biomass is converted into syngas, and syngas is converted into an ethanol-rich mixture. However, syngas created from biomass contains contaminants such as tar and sulphur that interfere with the conversion of the syngas into products. These contaminants can be removed by tar-reforming catalysts and catalytic reforming processes. This not only cleans the syngas, it also creates more of it, improving process economics and ultimately cutting the cost of the resulting ethanol.

Biorefineries would help utilize the optimum potential of wastes and help solve the problems of waste management and greenhouse gas emissions. Each of these three components could be converted, through enzymatic/chemical treatments into either hydrogen or liquid fuels. The pre-treatment processes involved with these, generate products like paper-pulp, HFCS, solvents, acetate, resins, laminates, adhesives, flavour chemicals, activated carbon, fuel enhancers, undigested sugars etc. which generally remain untapped in the traditional processes.

Prospects in MENA

The MENA region has significant biomass energy potential in the form of municipal wastes, crop residues, industrial wastes etc. Around the region, pollution of air, water and soil from different waste streams continues to grow. The major biomass producing countries in MENA are Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Jordan. Traditionally, biomass energy has been widely used in rural areas for domestic purposes in the MENA region, especially in Egypt, Yemen and Jordan. The escalating prices of oil and natural gas, the resulting concern over energy-security, have led the MENA nations to explore alternative sources of energy.  Biorefinery offers a plausible solution for augmenting energy supply, obtaining clean energy and production of a wide range of chemicals from a host of waste material, apart from associated waste management benefits.

Biomass Energy and its Promise

Biomass is the material derived from plants that use sunlight to grow which include plant and animal material such as wood from forests, material left over from agricultural and forestry processes, and organic industrial, human and animal wastes. Biomass comes from a variety of sources including wood from natural forests, agricultural residues, agro-industrial wastes, animal manure, organic industrial wastes, municipal solid wastes, sewage sludge etc. When biomass is left lying around on the ground it breaks down over a long period of time, releasing carbon dioxide and its store of energy slowly. By burning biomass its store of energy is released quickly and often in a useful way.

Technology Options

Biomass resources can be transformed into clean energy and/or fuels by a variety of technologies, including thermal and biochemical. Besides recovery of energy, these technologies can lead to a substantial reduction in the overall waste quantities requiring final disposal.

As far as thermal technologies are concerned, biomass can be converted into energy by simple combustion, by co-firing with other fuels or through some intermediate process such as gasification and pyrolysis. The energy produced can be high calorific value gases, electrical power, heat or both (combined heat and power). The advantage of utilizing heat as well as or instead of electrical power is the marked improvement of conversion efficiency – electrical generation has a typical efficiency of around 30%, but if heat is used efficiencies can rise to more than 85%.

Biochemical processes, like anaerobic digestion, can also produce clean energy in the form of biogas which can be converted to power and heat. In addition, biomass can also yield liquid fuels, such as bioethanol or biodiesel, which can be used to replace petroleum-based fuels. Algal biomass is also emerging as a good source of energy because it can serve as natural source of oil, which conventional refineries can transform into jet fuel or diesel fuel.


Biomass energy technology is quite flexible and can be applied at a small, localized scale primarily for heat, or it can be used in much larger base-load power generation capacity whilst also producing heat. Biomass generation can thus be tailored to rural or urban environments, and utilized in domestic, commercial or industrial applications.

Biomass conversion reduces greenhouse gas emissions in two ways.  Heat and electrical energy is generated which reduces the dependence on power plants based on fossil fuels. GHG emissions are significantly reduced by preventing methane emissions from landfills.  Moreover, biomass energy plants are highly efficient in harnessing the untapped sources of energy from biomass wastes.

Major Benefits

Biomass energy systems offer significant possibilities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions due to their immense potential to replace fossil fuels in energy production. Biomass reduces emissions and enhances carbon sequestration since short-rotation crops or forests established on abandoned agricultural land accumulate carbon in the soil.

Biomass energy usually provides an irreversible mitigation effect by reducing carbon dioxide at source, but it may emit more carbon per unit of energy than fossil fuels unless biomass fuels are produced unsustainably. Biomass can play a major role in reducing the reliance on fossil fuels. In addition, the increased utilization of biomass-based fuels will be instrumental in safeguarding the environment, generation of new job opportunities, sustainable development and health improvements in rural areas. Biomass energy could also aid in modernizing the agricultural economy.

When compared with wind and solar energy, biomass plants are able to provide crucial, reliable baseload generation. Biomass plants provide fuel diversity, which protects communities from volatile fossil fuels. Since biomass energy uses domestically-produced fuels, biomass power greatly reduces our dependence on foreign energy sources and increases national energy security.

Global Trends

Biomass energy has rapidly become a vital part of the global renewable energy mix and account for an ever-growing share of electric capacity added worldwide. As per a recent UNEP report, total renewable power capacity worldwide exceeded 1,470 GW in 2012, up 8.5% from 2011. Renewable energy supplies around one-fifth of the final energy consumption worldwide, counting traditional biomass, large hydropower, and “new” renewables (small hydro, modern biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, and biofuels).

Traditional biomass, primarily for cooking and heating, represents about 13 percent and is growing slowly or even declining in some regions as biomass is used more efficiently or replaced by more modern energy forms. Some of the recent predictions suggest that biomass energy is likely to make up one third of the total world energy mix by 2050. Infact, biofuel provides around 3% of the world’s fuel for transport.

Biofuels in Jordan: Perspectives

Jordan has good biofuels production potential in the form of crop residues, agro-industrial wastes and urban wastes. Biomass energy sector in Jordan is slowly, but steadily, developing. As per a recent World Bank report, the country is currently generating 3.5MW of power from biomass resources which represent 0.1% of the total energy demand in the country. However there is no available data on the amount of biofuels produced in Jordan. Jordan produces significant amount of biofuel feedstock in the form of lignocellulosic biomass, used cooking oil, animal tallow, agro-industrial wastes, industrial effluents etc. 

In Jordan, transportation sector alone is responsible of 51% of final energy consumption (MEMR, 2013) which makes it imperative on policy-makers to find alternative and renewable transportation fuels in the form of biodiesel, bioethanol, biogas, algae fuels etc. However, allocation, development and implementation of alternative fuels go hand in hand with the preparation of adequate policies and targets by the local government. Some of the major driving forces for development of biofuel sector in Jordan include reduced climate change impacts and decreased reliance on imported fossil fuels.

Biofuels and Jordan's Renewable Energy Law

The Jordanian Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (REEE) law no. 13 of the year 2012 announced bioenergy as a renewable source of energy and only focused on using biomass feedstock in the production of electricity without mentioning production of biofuels from these sources. In addition the directive on Regulating the Activity of Industrial Fuel from Waste announced two definitions namely biofuel and industrial fuel. Biofuel is defined as a hydrocarbon material produced from all kinds of vegetable oil and/or animal fats and/or used vegetable oils or any other resources, whereas industrial fuel is defined as a liquid or gaseous hydrocarbon materials produced from industrial waste, domestic waste, plastic materials, medical waste, used tires and other high carbonaceous materials. These wastes are considered to be a non-renewable source and the produced oil or gas a non-renewable fuel, regardless of the technology used in its production.

Thus, the current Jordanian energy policy underline biofuels produced from waste resources as a non-renewable source of energy which in the result deprives biofuel sector from being able to benefit from the renewable energy law and tax redemption bylaw No. 13 for the year 2015. In addition bylaw No.13 for the year 2015 only mention exemptions on biomass energy systems which produce electricity, specifically biomethane to electricity and direct combustion of waste to electricity which completely contradicts the definition of the industrial fuel as biomethane can be produced from solid waste using anaerobic digestion process. In addition despite defining biodiesel as a renewable energy source its production systems and production inputs were not added under the exemption by law No. 13 for the year of 2015.

To conclude, policy-makers and urban planners are strongly urged to take these important points into consideration to harness the untapped biofuel potential thus catalyzing the development of biomass energy sector in Jordan. In addition, Jordan can explore the development of commercial energy crop plantations like Jatropha, Pongamia, sweet sorghum, algae farms etc on marginalized lands to spur the growth of biofuels sector.


  2. The Little Green Data Book (2014), World Bank.
  3. The Regional Solid Waste Exchange of Information and Experience Network in Mashreq and Maghreb Countries – Sweep Net (2013). Country Report on Solid Waste Management in Jordan.
  4. Ahmad Al-Rousan, Anas Zyadin, Salah Azzam, Mohammed Hiary (2013) “Prospects of Synthetic Biodiesel Production from Various Bio-Wastes in Jordan” Journal of Sustainable Bioenergy Systems, 3, pp 217-223