Sapphire Energy Hikes Green Crude Production Estimates

4/16/09Follow @bvbigelow

[Update: This report was updated at 6:10 PT with a statement from Sapphire Energy president C.J. Warner]

Citing a breakthrough, San Diego’s Sapphire Energy, a startup developing algae-to-fuel technology, today doubled its estimated production for 2011, saying that by then the company will be capable of producing 1 million gallons of diesel and jet fuel annually.

“We have made a recent significant technological breakthrough within our company and, combined with our ongoing development improvements, we’re able to project a higher number,” said C.J. Warner, who was named Sapphire’s president in December. “This is pretty exciting for us and, given the urgency of finding a renewable fuel solution across the nation and around the globe, we wanted to share our updated time line.”  Warner, who provided the comment by email through a  spokeswoman, did not explain the nature of Sapphire’s breakthrough.

Sapphire says it has developed proprietary methods that enable algae growing in non-potable water in desert areas to produce a “green crude” substitute that requires no changes to the petrochemical industry’s pipeline and refining infrastructure.

In a statement released by Sapphire around a military energy and fuels conference in Alexandria, VA, Sapphire vice president Brian Goodall said the company’s technology is ready now. The company says production will ramp up over the next several years, hitting the 1 million gallon figure sometime in 2011, climbing to 100 million gallons annually by 2018, and then to 1 billion gallons of fuel per year by 2025. Sapphire says this means it could be supplying enough fuel to meet nearly 3 percent of the country’s 36 billion gallon renewable fuel standard.

In January, Sapphire participated in test flights that successfully substituted jet fuel made from its “green crude” for conventional jet fuel. Aviation fuel is viewed as a key market for the biofuels industry because the U.S. Air Force is the largest single customer, and the specifications are more rigorous than for any other transportation fuel. The company says it has conducted several test flights with commercial airlines Continental and JAL.

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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