Green crude farm, consisting of algae cultivation ponds and processing facilities. (Photo: Sapphire Energy)
Algae-to-energy facility now operational
Thursday, September 06, 2012, 01:50 (GMT + 9)
Sapphire Energy, Inc has announced that the first phase of its Green Crude Farm, a commercial demonstration algae-to-energy facility, is now operational. Construction of this first phase, which began on 1 June 2011, was completed on time and on budget. When completed, the facility will produce 1.5 million gal per year of crude oil and consist of approximately 300 ac of algae cultivation ponds and processing facilities.
The Green Crude Farm, also known as an Integrated Algal Bio-Refinery, was funded with both private and public funds, including USD 85 million in private investment from Sapphire Energy backed by a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan guarantee and a USD 50 million grant from the US DOE.
Today, the cultivation area consists of some of the largest algae ponds ever built with groupings of 1.1 ac and 2.2 ac ponds, which are 1/8 of a mi long. The initial phase also includes all the necessary mechanical and processing equipment needed to harvest and extract algae and recycle water for the 300 ac Green Crude Farm.
In March, the first inoculation of ponds with algae took place and a series of “shakedown” tests began to ensure that all systems are working as planned.
Currently, the farming operations are exceeding Sapphire Energy’s internal productivity goals in terms of biomass yield, demonstrating that large scale cultivation is possible and much larger cultivation systems can be implemented with the proper agronomic processes in place. The company harvested its first crop in June without any system difficulties and has since harvested 21 million gal of algae biomass totalling 81 million tonnes.
The Green Crude Farm is preparing to transition its operations to a winter variety of algae while continuous cultivation, harvest and extraction activities continue.
Sapphire Energy partnered with AMEC Project Engineering, who coordinated with 16 New Mexico-based contractors, to complete the first phase of the Green Crude Farm during 12 months of active construction.