Green Crude

Sapphire Energy, a San Diego based startup, has a process they claim can produce 91octane gasoline from “algae microorganisms, salt water, carbon dioxide and the power of the sun.”

The interesting twist to their technology is that method doesn’t use a plant that people typically use for food (like corn, sugarcane or sugar beats).  So not only doesn’t this solution use food products, it doesn’t require actual farm land (i.e. land used to grow food) to produce the fuel. 

Sapphire claims that they can set up a production facility in the desert.  The steady sunlight is an important factor in their production, and the salt water can be shipped in.

Their stated goal is to product 10,000 barrels a day, which in the national economy isn’t that much.  It is however, 10,000 barrels a day that isn’t pumped out of the ground, and will be produced domestically.

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4 Responses

  1. The one thing I noticed that wasn’t mentioned is cost. How much will it cost to produce per gallon? With Gas prices falling(NJ is at around 3.40 and still trending downward – I expect gas to dip below 3 bucks by christmas), unless the method is cheap, it’s going to go on the “Hunh, interesting” pile and be forgotten

  2. It was around $3.40, and jumped up past $3.50 after hurricane shut down the refineries for a few days.

    It’s still a volatile market and enough people will be wary of it to keep this company funded.

    Even given that, it will still have a niche as “designer gas.” The same people who buy carbon offset credits would be the same people who would pay extra for gas that is “carbon neutral.”

    It also has the advantage of being a domestic source. The company is a startup, and talking about 10,000 barrels a day. What if Exxon-Mobile decides this tech would be easier to set up in the American Southwest than dealing with trying to put more rigs off the coast of California?

    This is really new technology and we probably won’t see any benefit from it for at least five to ten years.

    Yes, I’m walking away from that last line.

  3. It still boils down to dollars and cents. Gas is going down, despite the minispike caused by hurricane Ivan. Hell, Chavez is predicting it’s going to fall to 80/barrel by the end of December, and he’s concerned(and rightly so – oil is all that’s keeping Venezuelas economy afloat)

  4. Depending on who gets elected President of the US, we might have a shutdown of any new domestic oil production, which would increase the value of foreign oil, and thus make this technology more valuable.

    I think there are enough investors who will back this technology. It’s probably a safer bet than many Web 2.0 companies.

    Another sharp spike in oil prices (hurricane, OPEC gets snarky, etc) and I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone in Congress try to get some tax dollars behind this.

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