A Mini-Cluster of Algae-to-Biofuels Technology Blooms in San Diego

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the field, who specializes in photoplankton at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

—Sapphire Energy, a La Jolla startup with VC backing from Bill Gates and Arch Venture Partners, says it has proven the feasibility of using algae to make “green crude” that can serve as a substitute for crude oil.

—Synthetic Genomics, a La Jolla venture founded by J. Craig Venter, specializes in using genetically modified microbes to address global energy and environmental challenges.

—Genomatica, a San Diego-based venture, has developed a pioneering process that uses genetically modified bacteria to make a rubberized plastic known as 1,4-butanediol, or BDO, to replace petroleum-based feedstock used in chemical engineering and manufacturing.

—General Atomics, a private government contractor best known for developing the Predator UAV, recently landed a $19.9 million Pentagon contract to develop ways of making jet fuel from algae. The company began working on biofuels research about two years ago.

—SAIC, another San Diego defense contractor, also got a $14.9 million Pentagon contract to find ways of making jet fuel from algae. Both contracts were awarded by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, as the Pentagon seeks ways to reduce its $6 billion annual fuel bill.

—HRBiopetroleum, based in La Jolla, has established algae-to-biofuels operations in Hawaii. The company uses marine microalgae to produce vegetable oils and other biofuel-related products.

—Earthrise Farms, the 108-acre facility near El Centro, CA, operated by Earthrise Nutritionals of Irvine, CA, grows Spirulina, a microalgae used in food, biochemistry, and pharmaceuticals

—Carbon Capture is a La Jolla-based company developing new ways for using algae to absorb carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants. The company operates a 160-acre site for a proposed 46-megawatt ultra-low emission natural gas power generation facility.

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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