San Diego’s Sapphire Energy Producing Green Crude From NM Algae Farm
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processes the crude into different types of fuel and other petroleum products.
In a statement this morning, Sapphire says construction began on June 1, 2011, and was completed earlier this year, “on time and on budget.” The company has made a point of meeting its deadlines, perhaps because Sapphire received its federal loan guarantee in the wake of the Solyndra failure.
Funding for the project includes $85 million in private investment from Sapphire, backed by a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan guarantee, and a $50 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Sapphire has raised more than $300 million from venture investors, including Bill Gates’ Kirkland, WA-based Cascade Investment, Venrock, the Wellcome Trust, Arch Venture Partners, Arrowpoint Partners, Monsanto, and others.
The company began seeding the ponds with algae in March, marking the beginning of a series of shakedown tests. Sapphire says it harvested its first crop in June.
When completed, Sapphire says, “the facility will produce 1.5 million gallons per year of crude oil and consist of approximately 300 acres of algae cultivation ponds and processing facilities. By reaching this key milestone, Sapphire Energy is on target to make algae-based green crude a viable alternative fuel solution capable of significantly reducing the nation’s need for foreign crude oil.”
The next stage for Sapphire’s green crude farm calls for a transition to growing a winter variety of algae while continuing to harvest algae and extract oil. By the end of 2014, Sapphire estimates the facility will be producing 100 barrels of green crude per day.