New Frontiers: Now It’s Crude Oil from Algae that Is Being Tested
by Herman Wang (Platts/The Barrel) It’s hard to get excited over a producer making a scant 2 barrels/day of crude.
But in the case of Sapphire Energy, those barrels represent the beginnings of a potential revolution that it says could upend how the US produces oil.
For example, ExxonMobil in 2009 announced a much-ballyhooed partnership with another San Diego-based firm, Synthetic Genomics, on a $600 million effort to study various strains of algae.
ExxonMobil had predicted that it would begin producing algae biofuel within a decade. But the company has since backed off on those rosy projections, with CEO Rex Tillerson saying in a March interview on PBS television’s “Charlie Rose” program that such fuels are “probably further” than 25 years away, as the technology has proven more difficult than first imagined.
Zenk (Tim Zenk, Sapphire’s vice president for corporate affairs) said Tesoro is helping Sapphire through the Environmental Protection Agency’s certification process that approves transportation fuels for on-road use. In addition, Sapphire said its crude will be eligible to generate renewable credits, known as RINs.
In addition to the federal aid, Sapphire, like all advanced biofuels manufacturers, considers the RFS vital to its future. Amid attacks by the oil industry, some lawmakers in Congress are seeking to reform the ethanol blending mandate.
Zenk said any reforms should still incentivize advanced biofuels manufacturers, to ensure that budding technologies, such as Sapphire’s, continue to be developed in the US.
“The RFS is an essential component for scaling up these new technologies,” Zenk said. READ MORE