A new milestone was reached recently in the race to make fuel from algae a conventional oil alternative: high-octane gasoline that is compatible with any gas-guzzling vehicle. The feat was performed by Sapphire Energy, a company that manufactures “green crude”. Sapphire uses single-cell algae to produce a chemical mixture that contains extractable fuel for cars and other transport vehicles. While the green crude is chemically identical to crude oil, it is completely carbon neutral.
The algal energy doesn’t require the use of agricultural land and water, and it deliver 10 to 100 times more energy per acre than crop-based biofuels. The company hopes that their green crude will ultimately be injected into normal crude pipelines.
Fortunately for consumers, Sapphire isn’t the only company looking into “Oil 2.0“. Silicon Valley company LS9 is working on genetically modifiying single cell organisms to excrete carbon neutral oil. Like Sapphire’s green crude, the LS9 oil will also work in conventional vehicles.
Whether these efforts come to fruition as oil replacements remains to be seen—and it mostly hinges on questions of efficiency. But we should find out soon. Sapphire expects to start producing their green crude within 3 to 5 years.
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Ariel Schwartz was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a contributor at Fast Company, Inhabitat, Triple Pundit, SF Weekly, and NBC Bay Area Online. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.