Sapphire Energy of San Diego said Jason Pyle has stepped down as chief executive officer of the startup that has raised close to $350 million to develop algae as a viable biofuel 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, who joined the company in 2009 as president and board chairman, will be the new CEO. Warner came to the company from BP, and has 27 year of experience in energy, refining and transportation industries. As chief executive, she aims to move toward commercial demonstration of the company’s technology and expand its partnerships.
In a statement, Pyle said the company has assembled an experienced 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.
Sapphire, which was founded in 2007 with $100 million in initial investment, received an additional $104.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This year, it added $144 million in venture capital to its coffers. Algae is an attractive green-fuel option because it can grow in poor-quality, brackish water. But costs and yields have been hurdles.