In what might be one of the first successful examples of an energy startup company making effective use of taxpayer guarantees, San Diego-based Sapphire Energy, which is developing algae-based crude oil technology, said it has completely paid of a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Sapphire Energy had been awarded $54.5M in a loan guarantee in December of 2009, to help build an algae-to-crude oil commercial demonstration facility in Columbus, N.M.
Sapphire said that plant is now producing renewable crude oil on a continued basis. The firm said it was able to pay off the loan balance after receiving private equity funding from private investors. The company attributed that funding to its ability to demonstrate progress via the demonstration facility. Sapphire has a big deal with Tesoro to supply "green crude" to the oil producer.