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Sapphire Energy names new chief executive


Mike Freeman, San Diego Union Tribune

Start-up company has raised $350 million to develop algae-based biofuels

Sapphire Energy of San Diego said Jason Pyle has stepped down as chief executive officer of the start-up company that has raised close to $350 million to develop algae as a viable bio-fuel alternative to crude oil.

Pyle, a co-founder of the company, will remain a member of the Sapphire’s board of directors.

Cynthia “C.J.” Warner replaces Pyle as Sapphire’s CEO. She joined the company is 2009 as president and board chairman. Warner came to the company from British Petroleum, and has 27 year of experience in energy, refining and transportation industries.

In a statement, Pyle said the company has assembled an experience management team as it builds a demonstration Green Crude Farm in Luna County, New Mexico. The initial production will focus on producing algae-based oil for use in making jet fuel and diesel. It will include cultivation and extraction of ready-to-refine algae oil.

“Sapphire Energy has been a labor of love for me, and I’m extremely proud of the company we built, the technology we developed, and the capital we raised to make green crude production a reality,” said Pyle.

Pyle added he would announce what he plans to do next shortly.

Warner was most recently a group vice president of global refining at BP. She is a member of the National Petroleum Council, an advisory committee reporting to the United States Secretary of Energy. As chief executive, Warner aims to move toward commercial demonstration of the company’s technology and expand its partnerships.

Sapphire has raised a large amount of money since it was founded in 2007 with $100 million in initial investment. The company received another $104.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Earlier this year, it added $144 million in venture capital to its coffers as it ramps up development of its algae growing operation in New Mexico.

Algae is an attractive green fuel option because it can grow in poor quality, brackish water. But costs and yields have been hurdles. Researchers have been attempting to boost the amount of oil produced per acre by algae farms to the point where algae can become a cost effective alternative to imported oil.

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