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    Green, Lean, and Clean

    Spring 2011

    Marcia Faye

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    C.J. Warner
    Cynthia "C. J." Warner (M.B.A. ’87)
    Photo: Noah Webb

    THROUGH THE PROCESS OF PHOTOSYNTHESIS, one of Earth’s first organisms—algae—enabled the evolution of higher life forms by converting water and carbon dioxide into sugars and oxygen. Today, as fossil fuel sources are dwindling, researchers are looking to these simple progenitors as a key element in the survival of the human race.

    Cynthia “C. J.” Warner (M.B.A. ’87) so believes that algae fuel can be a direct replacement for fossil fuel that she traded her nearly 30-year career in Big Oil to join a startup with a big vision: to change the world by developing a domestic, renewable source of energy that benefits the environment and hastens America’s energy independence.

    “I feel strongly that we need to start working now to develop good and viable alternatives to crude, or face the inevitable crisis of major crude oil shortages,” says Warner from the San Diego headquarters of Sapphire Energy, Inc., a pioneer in the algae-as-biofuel movement. “The energy market is so large that alternative supplies need to be very well developed before they make much difference at all, and developing such significant volumes of truly viable substitutes takes time. That’s why I am now devoting all of my own attention to developing Green Crude—a sustainable, low-carbon, scalable substitute for crude oil,” she explains.

    On the top 10 list in Biofuels Digest’s “The 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy for 2010–2011,” Sapphire Energy has been drawing attention since its founding in 2007. The following year, the company produced the world’s first batch of 91-octane fuel made from a renewable source. In a 2009 test run, Green Crude was used in a biofuel-traditional fuel blend to power a Continental Airlines 737 jet, yielding a 1.1 percent increase in fuel efficiency and a 60–80 percent emissions reduction over traditional jet fuel.

    The United States Department of Energy first explored the use of algae as a fossil-fuel alternative after the oil crisis of the 1970s. During that period, Warner was a chemical engineering major at Vanderbilt University and completing a summer internship at the Amoco Research Center (where she met her husband, Dave [ME ’90]), not far from her hometown of Glen Ellyn, Ill. While industry was searching for new fuel options and processing techniques, society was becoming increasingly aware of its role as environmental steward.

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