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Sapphire Energy: The Gorilla of Algae Fuel?

sapphirelogoWhoa, algae fuel startup Sapphire Energy is more than a little confident of its production schedule. The company, which is working on squeezing green crude from algae for high-octane fuels and was just founded in 2007, said today that it is ramping up its production estimates to 1 million gallons of algae-based diesel and jet fuel per year by 2011 — just 2-3 years from now. In addition, by 2018, Sapphire says that it will crank out up to 100 million gallons per year. By 2025, that number will soar to 1 billion gallons per year, which would be about 3 percent of the U.S. renewable fuel standard!

Why all the bravado? The startup is one of the most well funded in the algae fuel industry, with more than $100 million raised from the likes of Bill Gates’ investment firm Cascade Investment, as well as ARCH Venture Partners, Wellcome Trust and Venrock. And so far it has tested its fuel with two commercial airlines: Continental and JAL. It’s definitely leading the pack.

But in an uncertain economic climate and at a time when the biofuel industry is struggling across the board, Sapphire’s new gameplan is aggressive to say the least. GreenFuel Technologies, the Cambridge, Mass.-based algae-producer, likely had some pretty daring production estimates until it overestimated costs, struggled to raise funding and recently cut nearly half its staff. As Martin Tobias, former CEO of biodiesel maker Imperium Renewables and now CEO of, said recently at our Green:Net conference, the alternative fuel market is just a numbers game, making it extremely difficult for startups to tackle.

12 Responses to “Sapphire Energy: The Gorilla of Algae Fuel?”

  1. Nancy Pham

    Sapphire blows a great story but the management in experienced and there are many problems with the infrastructure. There is great initial investments but chaos internally – weak management, wrong/inexperienced people in key positions, high burn rate. Specifically, key technology personnel do not have verified credentials and company is immature from ground up. Impressive backgrounds do not equate to start-up success and concerns with Sapphire abound locally – especially considering local complaints, high turnover, inexperienced and immature management, and questionable science.

  2. Energy Guy

    Sapphire is a paper monkey not a Gorrilla… They never produced any oil. Just bought some algae from a place I know. Gave it to someone to extract some small qty of oil.. Gave the oil to someone to convert that oil into jet fuel ( Known art for at least 50 years ). Blended that small qty of Jet Fuel in a Large qty of actual jetfuel and ran one engine for few minutes….

    They made a lot of noise and paid a lot of money to publicists to get false story out…

    They can barely grow tiny bit of algae and little else…

    Their investors are sure to loose all the money and make the Managers of Sapphire rich

  3. Member Agal Biomass Organization

    I hate articles like this. The reporter continues to propagate a well known lie. Not one single ounce of oil produced by Sapphire was used in either the JAL or Continental flights. Oil was provided by Cyanotech in Hawaii.