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ABFA Video Series Continues: Sapphire Energy Creates “Green Crude” Oil  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Drivers in the United States are familiar with ethanol blends available at the gas pump, but they might not know that an American company has pioneered the power of “Green Crude” – using sunlight and carbon dioxide to turn algae into renewable fuel that can be refined into gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel.

Developing clean and advanced biofuels like these are key to a sustainable transportation future, and the Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA) is leading the low-carbon transition. Nearly 50 member companies are creating advanced biofuels from renewable resources like plants, algae, waste, animal fats and other forms of biomass to cut emissions while boosting local economies and creating good jobs.

ABFA’s ongoing video series tells the stories of this clean fuel transition through the companies producing renewable gallons and breaking ground on new facilities – our members. Today we profile Sapphire Energy, the first company to produce renewable crude oil on a continuous basis from algae biomass.

We heard from CJ Warner, CEO and chairman of Sapphire Energy, about the potential for advanced biofuels to increase energy security. “The industry is very significant for the American public as well as the world because there is growing demand worldwide,” said Warner. “Even if it is stable in America, worldwide it’s growing and we are having a harder and harder time with traditional methods to meet that demand.”

Sapphire’s proprietary system has changed the way crude oil can be produced. “Instead of drilling and exploring for existing reserves, we are producing new reserves from algae and above-ground ponds,” said Warner. “We are making this crude so that it’s fungible with today’s existing systems and can be refined just like any other crude.” A recent study determined that diesel fuel refined from Green Crude has an approximately 70% reduction in  GHG emissions when compared to diesel refined from traditional oil.

Sapphire’s facilities in California and New Mexico are developing algae-to-oil technologies that produce clean fuel today, and could make a major impact in the future. “We’re producing about 80 gallons a day, by next year we’ll be producing between 50-100 barrels per day, and by 2018 we’ll be producing 10,000 barrels a day,” said Warner. In fact, algae produce up to 50 times more energy per acre than other feedstocks.

With more than 300 issued and pending patents across the algae-to-fuel value chain, Sapphire is showing low-carbon fuel can also be profitable – the company was one of the first renewable energy companies to fully pay off its loan guarantee issued through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

So what message does Warner have for Congress to help this growing industry succeed? “The more they can give us encouragement that we’re going to have stable regulation and stable interest, we can attract the kind of private funds we need to make ourselves viable and scale up so we can actually be significant on the energy scale.”

Check out the full interview video embedded above, and stay tuned for more perspectives from the companies leading America’s transition to a renewable fuels future. We’ll continue to release new videos spotlighting different ABFA members every few weeks.


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