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Green Crude? Answered

"Sapphire Energy has built a revolutionary platform that uses photosynthetic microorganisms to produce a renewable, high-value replacement for fossil fuel petroleum. This domestic crude oil requires only sunlight, CO2 and non-potable water - and can be produced at massive scale on non-arable land."

They call it Green Crude, an algae produced product that could one day replace gasoline. It's not biofuel, or ethanol, and it doesn't require any plants or farmland. The only things consumed are waste water and CO2. They say it could also be made into jet fuel. It seems too good to be true! I can't find anything about the cost, efficiency or speculated time line, but they do have some big investors and are planning on increasing production soon.

The Company

What do you guys think?


Er, it is biofuel (fuel from a live source), but this is a cool idea. The algae are pressed to remove the oil, and the remains can be used as animal feed.

I'd heard that several airliner manufacturers are planning to start work on adding algae-oil to kerosene as jet fuel, as soon as they'd gotten their alcohol-kerosene mix sorted (link).

KLM is working with AlgaeLink to produce algae-oil jet-fuel as well.

Ah well, they sound like they're stalling, if the fuel burns it can be used, as long as the temperature stays below the 90% maximum threshold, the way you set the jet or turboprop engine to run takes a few minutes, you fire it up and take a reading of the engine temp and calibrate the engine settings for a fuel that burns at this temperature... Sorry sometimes I think they're being a bit dossy about this stuff, a jet engine will take on home heating oil just fine, in fact up at the old parachute club my dad flew for some time ago they used to run the Porter on heating oil whenever they couldn't get over to an airport with fuel and their own bunker was empty... The interesting thing is that it burns most refined fuels clean, due to the extreme combustion temperatures... The fact that these things are so fuel hungry is a bigger problem... Ramjets maybe... Or Biomass fuel of any type, effectively nullifying the carbon problem, then you'd just have to figure out how much worse depositing carbon dioxide at several thousand feet is. On the other hand if people still liked road trips the emissions of planes could be lessened, I can't remember what it was but basically the same carbon produced by a thousand mile flight gave you an allowance of much more from even a thirsty car...

If you want cleaner ground transport, trains are the way to go. They can go further per ton transported than any other modern mode of transport. Anymore they don't go where people want to go, and the companies are all focused on freight rather than moving people. Even the US Govt.(i.e. Amtrak) has trouble getting the rail companies to give them priority without pushing a lot of buttons.

I think that rail transport isn't a half bad idea, if they were steam they'd be loved but that era is behind us I guess, trains lost their cool around that point, I got one for years while living in one town and going to school elsewhere, it was good I could take a kip then do my homework in the mornings, after a night out I hopped on the train with a chippie and sobered up... Also with the older trains it was good fun, I used to have some fun on them, one thing involved my old 'lawyer shoes' and wet days, hanging off the door skating down the platforms, another was jumping in a window when the trains were messed up, I threw my bag as commitment and chased the train down, the platform guards chasing me down after it then the driver telling me off... But he did say it looked pretty cool on the cameras... Trains are a good way of getting about after the initial difficulties involving track laying etc. I still think ocean liners are not too bad either, the decadence, the lower emmissions and the whole big engine stuff..

I don't have the quote to hand, but I heard that a long-haul return flight produced roughly the same pollution as a family car in a year (and that's per passenger, not per aircraft).

Aye, making it a serious problem, I was happy to see honda's newest exec jet, with a different engine over wing design, both looked good and improved the fuel economy by massive amounts....

I think it's a different idea...all the articles about it are pretty firm that it isn't bio fuel. "Biofuel can be broadly defined as solid, liquid, or gas fuel derived from recently dead biological material, most commonly plants." Are you absolutely positive that it kills the algae and uses it for the fuel? It does say that everything can be processed as carbon-based oil currently is.

I think that the definition of biofuel is being changed by the people putting money into it as a marketing thing - ethanol has always been fermented from sugars, but if they're intending the ethanol be used as a fuel, they've started calling it bio-ethanol. Same stuff, same production process, different market (and taxes).

When I was first taught about this novel idea, biofuel was synonymous with biomass - it was any fuel that was neither a fossil fuel nor incinerated trash.

I'm pretty sure the algae is killed - the cheapest way to get oil out of a plant is to crush it until the cells rupture. Only the oil is used for fuel, although the remains could be used as well, just as any plant could be burned or rotted for methane. It's probably just easier to feed the pressed algae as a cattle-feed, plus it creates income while they work on the oil (I assume).


10 years ago

this sounds all fine well and good but the problem is that even though it dosent require clearing land or consuming natural resources it still needs to be burnt to use it and thus its still killing the environment only now it can do so on an unlimited scale. this is one of the technologies that i like to call the "not-so-green" green technologies. they replace a natural resource with a renewable resource but fail to fix the other problems the existing technology has. what good is an electric car if you charge it up with power made by burning coal? instead of spending billions on research developing ways to continue doing things the way we are we should focus on developing technologies that replace the ones we have now cheaply enough to be attractive to the average consumer.

I think you're missinterpretting something.The carbon dioxide for this process comes directly from the air. In other words, this process takes the carbon dioxide produced from the burning of fossil fuels and stores it in a different carbon form that isn't necessarily harmful to the environment. It doesn't add more carbon dioxide to the problem, rather it uses the carbon dioxide that we've already liberated. In other words it's carbon nuetral. I'll agree that it may not be ideal (it allows us to ignore the damage we've already caused), but I certainly wouldn't say that it actually contributes to the problem. As far as that goes though, if the carbon source produced is comprable in structure to petroleum, it could be used to make plastic. If it can be used to make plastic it can, in effect, sequester the carbon pulled from the air. Which means, this technology holds the possiblity to actually repair enviromental damage caused through the utilization of fossil fuels. Further, since it's grown in a green house, this could be coupled with solar tower technology, that utilizes a greenhouse's ability to trap heat and hot air's tendency to rise to generate 100% emission free electricity. anyway... food for thought.

from my little research, if you press out the oil (or wash it or whatever), and basically bury the rest, you have sequestered a considerable amount of carbon. If you burn the residue, or use it for animal feed, or fertilizer, or use it for people food (like flour substitute), you let the carbon back out into the environment, so no sequestration takes effect. If you make plastic out of it, then it is 'temporarily sequestered', which isn't quite what the environmentalists have in mind, they want to get it out of the atmosphere permanently.

Interesting, but I smell a hoax

Yes it does, and if it sounds 'to good to be true', it probably is. But right now, I don't want to disuade any private enterprise from trying it again. The USGov has been working on this off and on since the 1970's (courtesy of the Carter administration and the first Arab Oil Embargo). The basis is sound, and at the current price per barrel of oil, it might work. But if I was betting on it, I would want it to still be economical with crude at less than half of the current price, due to market fluctuations.


10 years ago

hello future!

Renewable gas...
That is so amazing!
Great, now we don't have to use crude oil and even more worst biodiesel, I feared that using biodiesel is going to greatly increase the price of the global food supply, now I don't have to worry about that...

seems like too much plastic per exposed surface area. Oil from algae isn't news, it has been in R&D; for decades with mixed results.

what happened to real plants?

a while back I read about this idea in one of my magazines... pretty sure it was popular science

I'm not arguing with the definition - I'm saying this algae oil fits the definition.

When algae is dried it retains its oil content, which then can be "pressed" out with an oil press. Many commercial manufacturers of vegetable oil use a combination of mechanical pressing and chemical solvents in extracting oil. (Wikipedia.)

There are several other methods as well (solvents, enzymes and even ultrasound), but my guess is that pressing would be the most likely method, since the company keeps claiming both portability and domestic-scale production.

Cool .. at first I thought the pic looked like window-blinds, maybe that's a good idea. Fill the curtains up, get cleaner air and cheper fuel at home.


10 years ago

Totally......awesome.......I want some.

Looks good, but some efficiency ratings would be great...


10 years ago

Sounds like a noble idea.