Sapphire Energy & Institute for Systems Biology Partner on Biofuels

Xconomy San Diego — 

San Diego’s Sapphire Energy and Seattle’s Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) have established a strategic partnership that is intended to significantly expand and diversify the genetic resources that Sapphire needs to commercialize algae-based biofuels. Financial terms of the collaboration were not disclosed.

In the five years since it was founded, Sapphire Energy has demonstrated how genetically engineered algae can be cultivated, harvested, and processed to extract a “green crude” that is equivalent to petroleum-based crude oil. The company also showed how its green crude could be “dropped in” to a typical refinery and processed to make gasoline, Naptha, diesel, and jet fuel. Sapphire even participated in the first flights of commercial airliners to be powered by algae-based fuel. That was in 2008.

This summer, just over four years later, Sapphire Energy began operating the first phase of its “Green Crude Farm” near Columbus, NM, a 300-acre commercial algae production site also known as the Algal Bio-Refinery. Sapphire says site development will be completed in two years, and the farm is expected to produce about 100 barrels of green crude a day. The company also operates a 22-acre R&D facility in Las Cruces, NM, so laboratory breakthroughs can be swiftly applied in the field.

Yet the company is still seeking more.

In a phone interview last night, Sapphire spokesman Tim Zenk says the company turned to Seattle’s renowned Institute for Systems Biology to help accelerate the development of new algal strains, and to expand the diversity, robustness, and yield of its algal “crop.”

Genomics pioneer Leroy Hood co-founded the … Next Page »

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