San Diego’s Sapphire Energy Names New CEO Amid Signs of Change

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company’s key strategic partnerships with BP, which acquired the company’s cellulosic ethanol unit in 2010, as well as DuPont, Royal DSM, Bunge North America, Cargill, Novus International Inc., Colgate-Palmolive Co. and Tate & Lyle PLC, among others. Verenium had amassed a large catalog of enzymes that could be used as catalysts to accelerate a host of biochemical reactions, and Levine sought to work with industrial partners that could make use of several commercial business programs Verenium had pioneered. He says he developed excellent relationships with big companies that are major players “to bring in the skill sets that we as a small company could not create.”

While Levine also oversaw the sale of Verenium to BASF last year, he says it would be a mistake to think that he was hired at Sapphire to oversee a similar outcome. A more important example, Levine says, is Sapphire’s recent deal with Sinopec, China’s state-owned oil and gas conglomerate.

Continuing to explore opportunities in China makes sense, Levine says, not because operating costs would be significantly lower than the United States, but because China has made finding a solution to both their energy needs and air quality problems a national priority.

There was no immediate word about Warner’s next job.

In the statement issued today by Sapphire, board member Robert Shapiro says, “The impact of CJ’s leadership on Sapphire Energy’s mission to deliver commercial scale algae-based fuels has been tremendous, from overseeing the build out and commencement of operations at the world’s first algae-to-energy facility in New Mexico to securing key partnerships with some of the world’s top oil and gas refiners.”

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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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