December 04, 2009

NM Plant to Receive $100 Million in Federal Backing for Development of Biofuel Technology

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall applauded today's announcement that a planned biorefinery in Columbus, New Mexico, will receive a $50 million economic recovery grant and up to $54.5 million in guaranteed loans to build the facility and develop algae-based biofuels for use in jet fuel and diesel.

Sapphire Energy, which is based in San Diego, announced earlier this year plans to build an integrated algal biorefinery in Luna County. Construction of the biorefinery is expected to begin next year. In addition to the Columbus project, Sapphire has a research and pilot production facility in Las Cruces and is planning an additional demonstration project in Portales, which Udall secured nearly $1 million for in a 2009 appropriations measure.

Sapphire will use the grant and loan guarantee to demonstrate an integrated algal biorefinery process that will cultivate algae in ponds. It will then use dewatering and oil extraction technology to produce an intermediate that will be processed into drop-in green fuels such as jet fuel and diesel. The project will create hundreds of construction jobs, and several dozen full time positions once the plant is operational.

"This federal investment will create jobs in New Mexico while helping our country reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuels," said Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "This is great news for our state -- one that will have a positive impact now and in the long term."

"This funding builds on New Mexico's investment in the development of advanced, homegrown biofuels like algae," Udall said. "As a result, we will decrease our dependence on foreign oil, reduce our carbon footprint, and create jobs for hardworking New Mexicans."

The funding for Sapphire was part of an announcement today by U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The $50 million grant funding comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; the $54.5 million loan guarantee comes through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.