Sapphire Energy

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Sapphire Energy, Inc.
FoundedSan Diego, California, May 2007 (2007-05)
FounderSteve Briggs
Kristina Burow
Nathaniel David
Stephen Mayfield
Mike Mendez
Bryan O'Neill
Yan Poon
Jason Pyle
Key people
Cynthia "CJ" Warner, Chairman & CEO
Jeff D. Webster, COO
Thomas "Tom" Willardson, CFO
Matthew Croughan, CTO
Tim Zenk, VP of Corporate Affairs
Jaime E. Moreno, P.E., VP of Projects
Dean Venardos, VP of Operations
Jim Butler, VP of Legal Affairs and Intellectual Property
Dan Sajkowski, Sr. Director of Downstream Technology
Green Crude
Number of employees

Sapphire Energy was a San Diego-based American energy company that aimed to produce crude oil with algae.[1][2]


Sapphire Energy was founded in 2007.

As of February 2014, Sapphire Energy employed over 150 employees. The company is headquartered in San Diego, Calif., and has an engineering office in Orange County, Calif. and a Research and Development facility in Las Cruces, NM. In addition, the company's Green Crude Farm, the world's first commercial demonstration algae-to-energy facility (also known as the Integrated Algal BioRefinery or IABR), for which construction began in June 2011, is now operating in Luna County, near Columbus, New Mexico. Sapphire's Green Crude Farm integrates the entire value chain of algae-based fuel, from cultivation, to harvest, to conversion of ready-to-refine Green Crude, representing the convergence of biotechnology, agriculture, and energy.[3] The Farm is now producing barrels of crude oil year-round, and the company expects to be producing 100 barrels of Green Crude per day in 2015, and at commercial scale production in 2018.

In March 2011, Sapphire Energy and Monsanto announced a multi-year collaboration on algae-based research projects.[4] In May 2011, the company announced 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.[4] Later, in July 2013, the companies expanded their partnership with plans to refine and commercialize a new industrial scale hydrothermal treatment technology to upgrade algae biomass to crude oil that they intend to license and market to various industries, including algae, municipal solid waste, and farm waste, for converting other biomass sources into energy.[4] In February 2012, Sapphire Energy announced that it will integrate Earthrise Nutritionals' spirulina strain into its growing inventory of cyanobacteria and algae strains to expand resources for algae-to-energy production.[4] In November 2012, the company announced a partnership with Institute for Systems Biology to further the scientific research and development of algae biofuels.[4]

In 2013, Sapphire Energy expanded its partner network to include business agreements with industry leading oil & gas refiners. In March 2013, Sapphire Energy announced a commercial agreement with Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company, LLC. Per the agreement, Tesoro will purchase crude oil from Sapphire Energy's Green Crude Farm for processing into fuel at its west coast refineries.[4] In December 2013, Sapphire Energy and Phillips 66 announced they will work together to analyze and confirm that Green Crude can be refined in traditional refineries, and that it meets all Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) certification requirements under the Clean Air Act. The companies will work to complete the EPA certification process to register a new fuel product entering the market.[4]

Seed financing to launch the company in 2007 was provided by ARCH Ventures and Larry Bock. In 2008, Sapphire Energy announced it had raised more than $100 million in a Series B funding round which included ARCH Venture Partners, Wellcome Trust, Venrock and Cascade Investment, LLC. In April 2012, the company announced it had secured $144 million in Series C investment funding with backers including Arrowpoint Partners, Monsanto and other undisclosed investors, as well as all Series B investors.[4]

In December 2009, Sapphire Energy was awarded a $54.5 million USDA loan guarantee and a $50 million grant from the US Dept. of Energy as part of President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the USDA's Biorefinery Assistance Program 9003, authorized through the 2008 Farm Bill.[4] The $54.5 million loan guarantee awarded through the Biorefinery Assistance Program was issued to build a fully integrated, algae-to-crude oil commercial demonstration facility in Columbus, N.M. In partnership with the USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy, Sapphire Energy developed and implemented its facility, known as the Green Crude Farm, on time and on budget. Today, the Farm is operational and producing renewable crude oil on a continuous basis.[citation needed] In 2013, Sapphire Energy announced that it had paid off of its entire loan guarantee to the USDA.[4]

Sapphire Energy's Green Crude biofuel has been featured in multiple pilot demonstrations since 2009. The company used Syntroleum Inc (SYNM) technology to provide fifty gallons of gasoline for the Algaeus, a plugin-hybrid Toyota Prius that drove across the United States in September 2009.[5] The tour was conducted to show that gasoline made by algae is viable in today's vehicles, without modification. In 2009, Continental Airlines also tested one of Sapphire Energy's green crude blends.[7] Sapphire Energy provided Green Crude oil for the first flight's using algae derived jet fuel that was refined by UOP into jet fuel for two test flights – Continental Airlines 737-800 and Japan Airlines 747-300. In 2012, the company provided its Green Crude diesel fuel to power Below the Surface's 'Driving Innovation' Racing Team, which established itself by setting the first official algae-fueled diesel motorcycle speed records through a series of race challenges in the United States and Mexico.[4]

Sapphire Energy sold off the Integrated Algal BioRefinery in Luna County in 2019 to Green Stream Farms who use it to grow algae for use in nutritional products and livestock feed. As of August 2021 it was still in operation and being expanded, although the refinery operations seem to have been discontinued.[6]


Sapphire Energy produces "Green Crude" from algae, creating a crude oil containing many of the properties found in fossil crude oil. Green Crude is a low carbon crude oil offering a reduction in carbon emissions compared to petroleum-based equivalents.[7] Its production doesn't impact agricultural crops, land, or water, since algae are grown in salty, non-potable water, using lands not suitable for agriculture, and require only sunlight and CO2 to grow. It also drops right into the current infrastructure of today's cars, trucks, and aircraft without modifications. Sapphire Energy's Green Crude can be refined in a typical refinery.[citation needed]

According to the company, "Green Crude" oil 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 octane rating while meeting fuel quality standards.[4]

In August 2012, Sapphire Energy announced that its commercial demonstration algae-to-energy facility, the Green Crude Farm, is up and running with the on-time and on budget completion of Phase 1 construction, which began June 2011. The Farm consists of 100 acres of 1.1 acre and 2.2 acre ponds, as well as all the mechanical and processing equipment needed to harvest and extract algae and recycle water for the planned 300 acre facility. The Farm is now producing Green Crude oil year-round, and the company is in the process of refining its algae-to-energy processes and technologies as it moves towards scaling up production.[8]

The company expects the Green Crude Farm to produce 100 barrels a day of ready-to-refine crude oil at full operating capacity. In the September 2012 issue of Forbes magazine, Sapphire Energy expects its Green Crude to "be competitive with petroleum by 2018 if it can produce a minimum of 5,000 barrels a day".[9]


  1. ^ Pollack, Andrew (July 26, 2010). "Exploring Algae as Fuel". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-27. 'We've probably engineered over 4,000 strains,' said Mike Mendez, a co-founder and vice president for technology at Sapphire Energy, the owner of the laboratory. ...
  2. ^ "Resultados de la búsqueda Resultados web What happened to Sapphire Energy?". Algae World News. 19 April 2017. Retrieved 8 June 2020.
  3. ^ "Young algae industry getting government push". 1 November 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Sapphire Energy - Press Release".
  5. ^ Bigelow, Bruce V. (2009-09-08). "San Diego's Sapphire Energy Plans Bio-Refinery in New Mexico as 'Algaeus' Begins Promotional Cross-Country Tour". Xconomy. Retrieved 2009-09-10.
  6. ^ D'Ammassa, Algernon (12 August 2021). "New Mexico awards $250,000 grant to Luna County algae farm for expansion and added jobs". Deming Headlight. Luna County. Archived from the original on 12 August 2021. Retrieved 16 February 2022.
  7. ^ "Sapphire Energy further develops 'green crude' |". Retrieved 2022-07-19.
  8. ^ "Sapphire Energy - Press Release".
  9. ^ Douglass, Elizabeth (2008-05-29). "Sapphire Energy turns algae into 'green crude' for fuel - Los Angeles Times".

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