RIT Dubai and Jubail Pearl collaborate to generate green energy from palm tree waste

Dubai, UAE: Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Dubai has joined forces with Saudi-based engineering group, Jubail Pearl, to establish a long-term partnership that aims to generate sustainable sources of fuel to help diversify the region’s energy supply for a post-oil era.

The collaboration was sealed with the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and will begin with the production and commercialization of a sustainable biofuel, generated from the waste of the region’s vast palm tree crop.

An ancient natural resource that was once used for fuel to heat homes and bake bread, the palm tree has now found a future as a renewable source of energy thanks to the work of modern science. The initiative involves gathering the fallen leaves of the trees and shredding the raw material according to a specific process to produce biomass pellets that are both energy efficient and carbon neutral.

The technology is the culmination of years of scientific research initiated by a scientific team led by Dr. Yousef Al-Assaf, formerly Dean of the engineering college at American University of Sharjah and now President of RIT Dubai. The collaboration with Jubail Pearl will see the installation of a manufacturing plant in the Energy and Sustainability Research Center within the new RIT Dubai campus at Dubai Silicon Oasis, where final experimentations and small scale production will take place, before scaling up towards full commercialization.

Speaking about the initiative, Dr. Al-Assaf said, “Sustainability is a major pillar of our strategy at RIT, both in Dubai and New York, and it is one of four fundamental themes that defines our new campus development. We need to prepare ourselves for the post-oil economy and this initiative is the first step in our long-term commitment to developing a new energy portfolio for the future of society.”

Dr. Al-Assaf continued, “Our mission is to go beyond the basic principles of a sustainable campus and to contribute to the wider community through research and development in a range of different green energy solutions, from biomass to solar and geothermal as well as solid state batteries, which are cheaper to produce and transport, and most importantly, non-disruptive to our environment.”

Speaking on behalf of Jubail Pearl, Chairman of the Board, Dr. Saaran A. Al Shammari, said, “We are delighted to be part of this project, which comes under HRH Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s vision for the use of alternative fuel, as well as the Vision 2030 program. We realized the need for the help of a world-class educational institution such as RIT Dubai in order to conduct this phase of the project, which will involve our experts and professors at the university working on both technical and strategical aspects. We anticipate this product will be the first of its kind in the Arab world and as an international engineering group with interests in energy and alternative energy, it has been prioritized by our Chairman of the Board, HRH Nawaf bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.”

Following further testing and certification, the team will be seeking government authorizations to use the fuel locally in the coming months and it is anticipated that it could be available as a commercially viable heating product as early as next year.


About RIT Dubai

Established in 2008, RIT Dubai is a not-for-profit global campus of the esteemed Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, one of the world’s leading technological-focused universities with a storied 185 year history.   RIT Dubai offers highly valued Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in business and leadership, engineering, and computing. The curriculum provides students with relevant work experience through an innovative cooperative education program that helps students stand out in today’s highly completive job market. RIT Dubai offers American degrees, and all of RIT’s programs are UAE accredited. Students of RIT Dubai also have the unique opportunity to choose to study abroad at the main campus in New York or at one of its other global campuses.

About Jubail Pearl

Established in 1989, Jubail Pearl is a leading engineering and procurement contracting and general trading supplier group, based in Saudi Arabia and operating worldwide.