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Sapphire Energy

DOE Invests $22 Million in Biofuels Projects

Sapphire EnergyHawaii Bioenergy and Sapphire Energy have each received $5 million investments from the Energy Department, part of some $22 million in new investments by the agency to help develop cost-competitive algae fuels and streamline the biomass feedstock supply chain for advanced biofuels.

The Energy Department has invested $16.5 million in four projects — Hawaii Bioenergy, Sapphire Energy, New Mexico State University and California Polytechnic State University —to help boost the productivity of sustainable algae, while cutting capital and operating costs of commercial-scale production.

Hawaii Bioenergy will develop a cost-effective photosynthetic open pond system to produce algal oil. The project will also demonstrate preprocessing technologies that reduce energy use and the overall cost of extracting lipids and producing fuel intermediates, the Energy Department says.

Sapphire Energy will develop a new process to produce algae-based fuel that is compatible with existing refineries. The project will also work on improving algae strains and increasing yield through cultivation improvements.

Additionally, New Mexico State University received $5 million to increase the yield of a microalgae while developing harvesting and cultivation processes that lower costs and support year-round production. And California Polytechnic State University received $1.5 million to conduct research and development work to increase the productivity of algae strains and compare two separate processing technologies. The project will be based at a municipal wastewater treatment plant in Delhi, California that has six acres of algae ponds.

The four projects build on the Energy Department’s efforts to bring next generation biofuels online, with the goal of producing cost-competitive drop-in biofuels by 2017 and algae biofuels by 2022.

The Energy Department has also invested about $6 million in a new project led by Columbus, Ohio-based FDC Enterprises to reduce harvesting, handling and preprocessing costs across the entire biomass feedstock supply chain.

One of the largest costs for the advanced biofuels industry comes from harvesting its raw material or feedstock — the wood, grass, or agricultural waste it converts to fuel — and delivering it from the field or forest to a biorefinery, the agency says.

The FDC Enterprises project will work with independent growers and biofuels companies in Iowa, Kansas, Virginia, and Tennessee — including Poet, ADM, Clariant International, and Pellet Technology USA — to develop new field equipment, biorefinery conveyor designs and improved preprocessing technologies. The project will also develop and deploy feedstock quality-monitoring tools to reduce sampling and analysis costs, and conduct real-time analysis of feedstock characteristics such as moisture content and particle size.

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