Could Your Car Run on Algae?
Is “green gas” an oxymoron? Not according to San Diego–based Sapphire Energy.
The local company claims it can create a fuel that’s green in more ways than one. Created from algae, sunlight, carbon dioxide and non-potable water, their emerald-colored crude oil is an ultra-clean offshoot of gasoline and diesel.
The company insists that its new green-based gas is chemically equivalent to the light, sweet crude oil that has been draining our pocket books and making speculators rich at over $136 a barrel in New York futures trading.
The radical new solution is totally independent of fossil fuels or biodiesel. It doesn’t even require ethanol, or any other crop- or sugar-based biofuels (which directly impact food prices, the destruction of cropland, fresh-water reservoirs and the rainforest). Instead Sapphire’s process uses completely renewable, carbon-neutral products produced directly from CO2 and sunlight, efficiently generating green crude from one of the world’s oldest, most adaptable plants: algae. And unlike ethanol and biodiesel fuels, which rely on grown feedstocks — corn, sugar, switchgrass, trees — Sapphire’s algae requires no feedstock.
Sapphire’s fuel products are chemically identical to molecules in crude oil, making their products entirely compatible with the current energy infrastructure, including refineries and pipelines. That means, the new fuel produced from this green crude could power that gas hog sitting in your garage.
Sapphire’s process could help reduce the nation’s reliance on imported crude and help end worries about our dwindling supply of oil. Using carbon dioxide spewed out by coal plants, the production process would help remove harmful emissions from the atmosphere. The green crude also would produce fewer pollutants in the refining process and fewer harmful emissions from vehicle tailpipes.
While algae currently makes up only a tiny fraction of the fuel market, worldwide, it can be commercialized faster than other technologies. In fact, Sapphire plans to go full bore with pilot testing, producing 100 barrels of green crude per day, then up to 1,000, all the way to 10,000 barrels daily. If that model works, it will put biofuel on the fast track. Cultivation ponds drawing water from farms, waste-streams, tainted reservoirs, the ocean and other sources would quickly cover the southern half of the U.S., each producing three to four million gallons per year. Hello green, good-bye OPEC.
Image credit: danramarch via Flickr