Sapphire Energy, Inc., one of the world leaders in algae-based green crude oil production, today announced the first phase of its Green Crude Farm, the world’s first commercial demonstration algae-to-energy facility, is now operational.  The algae farm will grow to 300 acres, about a mile by ½ mile using 56 metric tons of CO2 a day from a multi-year agreement with The Linde Group to co-develop a low-cost system to deliver CO2 to commercial-scale, open-pond, algae-to-fuel cultivation systems, now underway at the Green Crude Farm.

Sapphire Green Crude Farm Under Construction. Click image for the largest view.

When the full facility is built out it should produce 1.5 million gallons per year of crude oil some 35,700 barrels worth.

Back in March, the first seeding of ponds with algae, otherwise known as inoculation, took place and a series of “shakedown” tests began to ensure that all systems are working as planned. Today, the farming operations are exceeding Sapphire Energy’s internal productivity goals in terms of biomass yield, demonstrating that large-scale cultivation is possible and much larger cultivation systems can be implemented with the proper agronomic processes in place. The company harvested its first crop in June without any system difficulties and has since harvested 21 million gallons of algae biomass totaling 81 tons.

Cynthia ‘CJ’ Warner, CEO and chairman of Sapphire Energy said for the press release, “Bringing our Green Crude Farm online is not only an important accomplishment for Sapphire Energy, but a critical step toward a viable alternative energy future. What was once a concept is now becoming a reality and model for growing algae to make a renewable crude oil for energy. We look forward to sharing our progress as the Green Crude Farm moves to its next stage.”

Next, the Green Crude Farm is preparing to transition its operations to a winter variety of algae while continuous cultivation, harvest and extraction activities continue.  Sapphire will continue to conduct “shakedown” testing, as well as operate and expand farming operations over the winter, as the facility is commissioned into 2013. By the end of 2014, the Green Crude Farm will produce 100 barrels of Green Crude per day. The commercial demonstration project is expected to prove “commercial” techno-economics, and Sapphire’s commercial scale Green Crude facility.

The Green Crude Farm is almost a self-sustainable project. Biomass not used in the production of fuel will be recycled as nutrients to support the algae ponds. Reintroducing the residual biomass to the pond systems significantly lowers overall fertilizer requirements and the carbon footprint.

The farm is, technically speaking, an IABR (Integrated Algal Biorefinery).  As technology is proven and economies of scale are achieved at the IABR, the design and construction of the first commercial biorefinery could start in 2015, and by 2018, Sapphire aims to produce 10,000 barrels per day of green crude.

The green crude Sapphire makes is very good stuff indeed.  The algae yield a crude oil replacement that is literally green, and according to the company, the “green crude” meets fuel quality standards and is completely compatible with the existing petroleum infrastructure, from refinement through distribution to retail suppliers. Gasoline produced from the green crude achieved a 91 gasoline octane rating, 89 cetane diesel, and jet fuel while meeting ASTM certification fuel quality standards.

On the other hand, Sapphire needs a really cheap source of CO2 and a lot of sunlit area.  As noted above about a ½ square mile yields 35,700 barrels or 71,000 barrels per square mile.

Today, the cultivation area consists of some of the largest algae ponds ever built with groupings of 1.1 acre and 2.2-acre ponds, which are 1/8 of a mile long.  It’s a start, and a good one too.

The green crude is going to be top value as crude oils go.  Perhaps no other crude oil has such value.

For many algae enthusiasts, Sapphire is the first one to go semi-commercial!


5 Comments so far

  1. Jagdish on August 28, 2012 4:13 AM

    If the CO2 could be “sequestered” in water, the resulting “soda water” could be moved by tanker or pipeline to the farm.

  2. jp straley on August 28, 2012 9:01 AM

    No costs are shown. The CO2 concentration equipment is part of both operating and capital costs.

  3. Bobby44 on October 9, 2012 10:11 AM

    We start small! Get it right! Then we look at costs. Congratulations to all involved.I hope it becomes finacially rewarding.

  4. Mark on October 10, 2012 12:49 AM

    Very interesting development. This would definitely have a future in South Africa. Any interests to expand to this area? If so, I would love to be part of it.

  5. Dante on December 14, 2013 10:58 PM

    Ridiculous story there. What happened after?
    Take care!

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