Fill’er up: San Diego’s Algae-Based Energy Sector Grows

10/16/09

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system designed to economically harvest large amounts of algae, and recover the biofuels.

Carbon Capture: Company wants to use carbon dioxide emissions from power plants to support algae growth.

HR BioPetroleum: With offices in San Diego and Hawaii, this company is working with partner Shell to use marine algae to produce biofuels.

Kai BioEnergy: Aims to produce biodiesel fuel from micro-algae biomass.

Kent BioEnergy: This company, with offices in San Diego and a facility near Imperial County’s Salton Sea, is working to culture and harvest microalgae to produce liquid fuels.

Sapphire Energy: With backing from Bill Gates, Arch Venture Partners, and the Wellcome Trust, this startup has said it’s developing algae as a “green crude” substitute for crude oil.

Synthetic Genomics: This company, founded by J. Craig Venter, is working with ExxonMobil to develop algal biofuels.

Verdezyne: Formerly known as CODA Genomics, this venture-backed startup in Carlsbad, CA, is developing proprietary biotechnology tools needed to produce biofuels and chemicals.

No list is definitive, of course. Cleantech’s list, for example, omits four companies that Bruce counted in December as part of San Diego’s algae technology mini-cluster. Two of the companies he listed, General Atomics and SAIC, are diversified defense contractors in San Diego that are working under relatively small DARPA contracts to develop algae biofuels for the military. Earthrise Farms, which operates in Irvine, CA, and Calipatria, CA, is focused on growing Spirulina blue-green algae as a world food resource. And San Diego-based Genomatica is developing methods of using algae to produce petrochemical feedstocks.

Denise Gellene is a former Los Angeles Times science writer and regular contributor to Xconomy. You can reach her at dgellene@xconomy.com Follow @

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