Green

Sapphire Energy gets $144M in its fuel tank to turn algae into gasoline

Sapphire Energy, a company that creates algae-based fuel, just announced a whopping $144 million in funding.

In recent years several startups have emerged to create fuel out of plant material, all hoping to lure people away from gasoline made from crude oil. Solazyme, Algae.tec, and Sapphire Energy all dominate the space, trying to edge out not only each other but oil companies as well.

All three companies covert algae into a petroleum replacement, one that can work with the traditional cars we already have on the road.

Creating green crude, a substance that can be converted into jet fuel, automobile gasoline, and diesel, is a process that has been around for several years. However, Sapphire’s recent investment proves that the technology is still going strong and that we could all very well be driving around on algae-based gas sometime soon. Sapphire has gained a lot of traction by signing deals with Continental Airlines and Boeing to test out algae-based jet fuel, and the company provided fuel for an algae powered Toyota Prius.

“It has never been more critical to invest in a long-term energy solution in order to wean us off of foreign oil, improve our nation’s energy security, and provide jobs,” said Cynthia Warner, president of Sapphire Energy in an statement to VentureBeat, “Due to the significant funding we announced today, as well as government support, Sapphire Energy is on track to commercialize algae-based fuels within this decade.”

Seed company Monsanto was one of the investors in this round and the company has been using Sapphire’s technology for its own genetic modification needs. Arrowpoint Partners and other private undisclosed investors led the round as well. This $144 million third round brings the green tech company’s total to $300 million.

The funding will be used to expand its Green Crude farm in New Mexico, an algae energy demonstration plant. Sapphire expects the plant to produce 1.5 million gallons of green crude by 2014.

Sapphire Energy was found in 2007 and has been funded by Arch Venture Partners, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, the Wellcome Trust, Venrock, and Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment.