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San Diego’s Sapphire Energy Raises $144M for “Green Crude Farm”


Bruce V. Bigelow, Xconomy

San Diego biofuel developer Sapphire Energy says today it has secured the final installment of $144 million in a Series C round of venture funding that includes Arrowpoint Partners, Monsanto, and other undisclosed investors.

Sapphire says the funding is being used to directly support its development of an algae-based biofuels demonstration facility that remains “active and on-schedule” in Luna County, NM. Previous stages of the round also went into the project.

In its statement, Sapphire says all major Series B investors also participated, which presumably includes Bill Gates’s investment arm, Kirkland, WA-based Cascade Investment, as well as Venrock, the Wellcome Trust, and Arch Venture Partners. With this latest investment, Sapphire says its total funding from private and public sources “substantially exceeds $300 million.”

Near the end of 2009, Sapphire said it had received a $50 million grant and $54 million loan guarantee needed to build its 300-acre integrated algal biorefinery, now known also as “the Green Crude Farm.”

Sapphire has been highlighting its fiscal probity since a political controversy erupted over a $535 million federal loan guarantee to Solyndra, a Bay Area solar energy company that ceased business and filed for bankruptcy last year. In its statement today, Sapphire Energy president and chairman Cynthia “C.J.” Warner says, “The ongoing support from the private investment community speaks to how strongly they believe in the development of Green Crude as an alternative fuel resource, especially Sapphire Energy’s ability to commercialize it.”

Warner adds, “It is increasingly important to find domestically produced crude oil alternatives to improve the country’s energy security, meet global energy demands, and provide jobs. Continued private investment is a critical step in achieving these goals.”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788

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