New Mexico biomass facility fully operational, set to produce 1.5 million units of “green crude”

On August 27, Sapphire Energy, a leading company in the burgeoning biomass industry, announced that it had completed the first major construction and operations phase at its Columbus, New Mexico-based "Green Crude Farm." This facility, the building of which began during June 2011, contains 300 acres of algae capable of creating what the company calls "Green Crude," a biochemical alternative to ethanol or biofuel.

Sapphire Energy's initiative was funded partially by the U.S. government's green energy stimulus programs, which provided approximately $50 million in grants and guarantees to supplement $85 million in private backing that the company has received.

The plant consists of two algae ponds, which are 1.1 acre and 2.2 acres wide and roughly one-eighth of a mile long. They were seeded in March following completion of the two reservoirs and have yielded 21 million gallons, or roughly 81 tons after processing, of biomass.

The energy company's leadership, including CEO Cynthia Warner, heralded the company's achievements in a press release, saying that today's announcement marks "a critical step toward a viable alternative energy future."

"What was once a concept is now becoming a reality and model for growing algae to make a renewable crude oil for energy. We look forward to sharing our progress as the Green Crude Farm moves to its next stage," Warner added in the statement.

Over the next 18 months, Sapphire Energy will continue to improve upon its current machinery while introducing more efficient methods. The ultimate goal is to produce 100 barrels of usable fuel per day, which will serve as an example for proposed commercial-scale plants that could pump out thousands of units in the same amount of time.

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