Tuesday, July 01, 2008

fuel from algae: sapphire's research

San Diego's Saphhire Energy can turn algae into oil, producing a green-colored crude by using algae, sunlight, carbon dioxide and non-potable water for an oil chemically equivalent to crude oil.

Sapphire plans to introduce its first fuels in three years and reach full commercial scale in five years. The company already has produced green versions of jet fuel, diesel and clear, premium-grade gasoline already. Chief Executive Jason Pyle said that the company's green crude could be processed in existing oil refineries and that the resulting fuels could power existing cars and trucks just as today's more polluting versions of gasoline and diesel do.

The total greenhouse gas effects of the entire process, from production to combustion will be evaluated by an outside source before Sapphire's green crude becomes viable. Tthe fuel doesn't contain nitrogen or sulfurs, so harmful nitrogen dioxide should not be present from emissions.

The company is privately owned and backed with funding from Wellcome Trust, a British charity, and venture capital firms such as Arch Venture Partners and Venrock. Sapphire's technology was born out of collaborations with Scripps Research Institute, UC San Diego, the University of Tulsa and the Energy Department's Joint Genome Project. Pyle said the genome researchers helped the company pinpoint the kind of algae best suited to making oil.

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