Columbus, N.M., August 27, 2012 — The first phase of Sapphire Energy’s Green Crude Farm, a commercial demonstration algae-to-energy facility, is now operational.
Construction of this first phase, which began on June 1, 2011, was completed on time and on budget. When completed, the facility will produce 1.5 million gallons per year of crude oil and consist of about 300 acres of algae cultivation ponds and processing facilities.
By reaching this key milestone, Sapphire Energy is on target to make algae-based Green Crude a viable alternative fuel solution capable of reducing the nation's need for foreign crude oil, which will serve as the blueprint for scalable algae biofuel facilities globally.
The Green Crude Farm, also known as an Integrated Algal Bio-Refinery, was funded with both private and public funds, including $85 million in private investment from Sapphire Energy backed by a USDA loan guarantee and a $50 million grant from the Department of Energy.
The cultivation area consists of some of the largest algae ponds ever built with groupings of 1.1 acre and 2.2 acre ponds, which are 1/8 of a mile 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 acre Green Crude Farm.
In March, the first seeding of ponds with algae, otherwise known as inoculation, took place and a series of "shakedown" tests began to ensure that all systems are working as planned.
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 gallons of algae biomass totaling 81 million tons. Next, the Green Crude Farm is preparing to transition its operations to a winter variety of algae while continuous cultivation, harvest and extraction activities continue.