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Role of Algae Fuels in California’s Clean Trillion

March 18th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Insights and Perspectives, United States

Adapted from Huffington Post

Highlighted in this post are some of the cutting edge stories pertaining to algae fuels that were discussed in the  Climate Leadership Conference was held in San Diego.

 Sapphire Energy, a biofuels company that has figured out how to produce the world’s first “Green Crude” oil from algae. Green Crude is on average 68 percent less carbon intensive than fossil fuels, and is completely compatible with our existing pipeline infrastructure.

It’s been pilot tested for use in commercial aircraft by Continental and Japan Airlines and found to serve just as well, if not better, than fossil fuels.

“The fuels are molecularly the same,” says Tim Zenk, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Sapphire. “You’re not putting a square peg in a round hole like you are with corn ethanol or biodiesel.”

Green crude packs as much punch energy-wise (four percent more, in fact) as jet fuel because algae is extremely efficient at photosynthesis. It doesn’t waste energy flowering or extending roots and can produce 5,000 gallons of green crude per acre. Corn in comparison produces only 450-500 gallons of ethanol per acre.

But wait, it gets better. The Green Crude production process uses neither freshwater nor arable land — unlike other biofuels such as corn-based ethanol or biodiesel, which compete with food crops for land and water.

Sapphire grows algae in brackish water in the desert. It operates a pilot facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and a commercial demonstration facility in Columbus, New Mexico that is located on land that went fallow 40 years ago because of saltwater intrusion into the aquifer.

Water resources are not an issue for Sapphire, says Zenk. “There are billions and billions of acre feet of brackish water in New Mexico.” A GIS analysis of U.S. water resources found the commercial production potential of algae-based fuels to be 25 billion gallons per year — or one-twelfth of the country’s yearly needs for transportation fuels.

Sapphire plans to be commercially viable in 2018 and is partnering with Phillips 66, the nation’s largest refinery to certify its green crude. And with California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard providing market pull, Sapphire is well on its way to meeting its goals.

The only thing slowing their growth is a lack of money, says Zenk. “Our limitation on the commercialization is capital. It’s no longer science.”

Are you listening, investors? That’s the sound of a Clean Trillion opportunity knocking.

In fact, clean trillion opportunities are knocking all over southern California. Clean tech companies like Sapphire Energy were estimated to have contributed more than $1.4 billion in economy activity and close to 5,000 jobs to San Diego in 2011, according to CleanTech San Diego.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mindy-s-lubber/clean-trillion-california-clean-energy_b_4979457.html

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