Sapphire Energy, a leading producer of crude oil from algae, and Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) announced a strategic partnership to further the research and development of algae biofuels. Through this partnership, the companies will focus on applying systems biology solutions to algae with the goal of significantly increasing oil yield and improving resistance to crop predators and environmental factors in order to further the advancement of commercialized algae biofuel production.
Sapphire Energy produces algae crude oil—“Green Crude”—which is renewable, low carbon and can be refined using typical refinery configurations into naphtha, diesel and kerosene (jet fuel). Today, the company has pioneered much of the science along the algae-to-energy value chain from biology, cultivation, harvest and extraction. The company recently began operating the first phase of its 300-acre commercial demonstration Green Crude Farm, also known as an Integrated Algal Bio-Refinery, in Columbus, New Mexico, in partnership with the US Department of Energy. The Green Crude Farm is expected to produce approximately 100 barrels of Green Crude per day, and be completed the end of 2014.
In addition, Sapphire Energy operates a 22-acre research and development facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where it can develop new technology and apply it from bench to demonstration scale. In previous pilot activities, the company successfully provided Green Crude oil that was used to produce jet fuel for the first flights using algae-derived jet fuel, including a Continental Airlines 737-800 and a Japan Airlines 747-300.
ISB, a world leader in systems biology, combines the massive amounts of different kinds of data that can be generated with today’s high throughput biology to build detailed genetic models of complex processes, such as crude oil production by algae. These models can then be validated and used to make predictions about how to change the algae or their environment to improve yield and overall crop performance.
Sapphire is dealing with one of the most complicated problems known to humans: how to make fuel from a renewable resource. Together, we have complementary expertise that will allow us to understand, reverse engineer and rationally alter the gene networks for fuel production in algae.—Nitin Baliga, director of Integrative Biology at ISB
By working with ISB to apply their systems biology approach, we’re able to more rapidly identify genes and regulatory pathways that can increase yield and move us toward our goal of making Green Crude a market viable, crude oil alternative.—Alex Aravanis, chief science officer (CSO) at Sapphire Energy