Alternative Fuels

Algae touted as potential source of fuel

Posted on July 1, 2008

SAN DIEGO — A local company said that it can produce crude oil from a process using algae, sunlight, water and carbon dioxide.

Sapphire Energy said that the “green crude” is chemically identical to petroleum and would be compatible with current energy infrastructure, from refineries to pipelines to transportation vehicles.

The company noted that the fuel derived from its green crude is not biodiesel or ethanol, and the process does not use food crops or farmland.

“It’s hard not to get excited about algae’s potential,” said Paul Dickerson, chief operating officer of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “Algae can flourish in non-arable land or in dirty water, and when it does flourish, its potential oil yield per acre is unmatched by any other terrestrial feedstock.”

Sapphire said that it has used its green crude to produce diesel, 91-octane gasoline and jet fuel.

The company has been collaborating with various organizations, including the DOE’s Joint Genome Project; the University of California, San Diego; the Scripps Research Institute; and the University of Tulsa.

Some energy experts have expressed skepticism about the potential of algae-derived oil in curbing pollutants.

“Emissions reductions may be coming from the refining process, but we would still have emissions issues in and from the vehicle,” California Air Resources Board spokesman Dimitri Stanich told the Los Angeles Times after reviewing a news release from Sapphire.

The Times reported that emissions from Sapphire’s fuels are being tested by an outside company.


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