Monday, September 29, 2008

Sapphire Biofuels Raises 100 Million for Algae Based BioDiesel

Sapphire - Algae Based Biodiesel

As many regular SDU readers know, I am a big fan if BioDiesel. I use it, it works, and it doesn't compete with food to the extent that corn based ethanol does. When BioDiesel is made from Soy, 80% of the soy is still used in food or feed. However we here at SDU are always on the lookout for better ways to make biofuels. One promising method is using algae to soak up carbon dioxide. Algae can be more than 50% oil - the key ingredient for BioDiesel. (Roudolf Diesel, the inventor of the engine that bears his name, ran his engine on peanut oil)

From Reuters we find out that Bill Gates is willing to put some money into this promising technology.

From Reuters:

Private company Sapphire Energy, which aims to squeeze "green" crude oil from blooms of one of the planet's oldest life forms, said on Wednesday it has raised over $100 million from investors.

The San Diego-based company hopes to make commercial amounts of the fuel in three to five years for a cost of $50 to $80 per barrel. Sapphire selects and genetically modifies algae to maximize their internal production of lipids, or fats and then squeezes that from algae. It says the oil can be used in refineries like normal crude.

"The goal of Sapphire is to produce a crude product that can be introduced into the existing crude stream for production costs that are similar to other new opportunities like oil shales, oil sands, and even deep, deep water drilling," Jason Pyle, Sapphire's chief executive said in an interview.

The money more than doubles initial investor of about $50 million the company got in June. New investors include Cascade Investment, LLC, an investment company owned by Bill Gates.

Amid lofty prices for crude oil and rising concerns about global warming, companies are racing to make algal fats into oils that can be turned into fuels.

Algae absorb the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide as they grow, so the net effect on global warming of the fuel is considered to be neutral.

The burning of traditional fossil fuels, on the other hand, releases carbon dioxide that has been stored for eons underground.

There are challenges in making fuel from slime that have dogged scientists for decades. One problem has been "layering" or the tendency of algae to slow down their process of making lipids once they multiply quickly in a pond, or in specially-made containers.

More after the jump: Reuters

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