ABU DHABI, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Abu Dhabi's state-owned carrier Etihad Airways is joining with French energy firm Total and U.S. aircraft maker Boeing to develop biofuels in the emirate, company officials announced on Sunday.
With its huge oil reserves, Abu Dhabi has ample access to cheap jet fuel, but it has said it wants to develop sustainable energy sources to diversify its economy. Biofuels could also help Etihad meet targets in the aviation industry for curbing emissions of greenhouse gases.
Etihad expects to start commercial flights of aircraft with bio jet fuel in five years, chief operations officer Richard Hill told reporters.
"In five years, technology will mature for biofuel to be commercially viable. We could offer competitive fares in the industry," he said, adding that it was too early in the project to elaborate on issues such as the total cost of investment or production capacity.
Abu Dhabi Oil Refining Co (Takreer) and the emirate's Masdar Institute of Science and Technology will also take part in the project.
The venture is looking at various raw materials to produce biofuel including agricultural waste, date palm leaves, and plants tolerant to salt water such as salicornia that could be grown in coastal areas of the United Arab Emirates, officials said.