"Green Crude: The Quest to Unlock Algae’s Energy Potential"

"A host of startup companies are pursuing new technologies that they claim will soon lead to large-scale commercialization of biofuels made from algae. But questions remain about the viability and environmental benefits of what its developers are calling 'green crude.'"

"Tiny Columbus, New Mexico (population, 1,678) is hot, flat and uncrowded — an ideal place to launch a new green revolution in agriculture. That, in essence, is what a well-funded startup company called Sapphire Energy wants to do: It is turning a 300-acre expanse of desert scrub into the world’s largest algae farm designed to produce crude oil. Sapphire began making oil there in May, and its goal is to produce about 100 barrels a day, or 1.5 million gallons a year, of oil, once construction of the “green crude farm” is completed next year.

“We take algae, CO2, water and sunlight, and then we refine it,” says Cynthia Warner, the chief executive of Sapphire, who joined the company after working for more than 20 years at oil-company giants Amoco and BP. Algae, she says, has the potential to change the world, by reducing carbon dioxide emissions and enabling almost any country to make its own oil. “This technology is so compelling — and it will make such a big difference — that, once it gets out of the gate, it will ramp up very quickly,” Warner says."

Marc Gunther reports for Yale Environment 360 October 15, 2012.
 

Source: YaleE360, 10/17/2012