produce the fuel on that level unless they’re sure someone will
Fortunately, the U.S. Navy is stepping into the picture, and
because of the sheer size of its fuel demands, it may have the
potential of “jump-starting” the industry.
Why is the Navy involved at all? According to U.S. Secretary of
the Navy Ray Mabus, importing petroleum over long distances “is
a very real threat to our national security, and to the U.S. Navy’s
ability to protect America and to project power overseas.” This
is because so much of our crude oil is imported from politically
unstable parts of the world.
What’s more, the Navy has the potential to be a major user of
biofuels. The U.S. Department of Defense is the world’s largest
single consumer of transportation fuels in general, and of the four
military branches, the U.S. Navy uses the most: 1. 26 billion gallons
annually in its ships, aircraft, and ground vehicles. Were the Navy
to shift a large portion of its fuel requirements to biofuels, this
would go a long way toward creating a large biofuels market and
establishing the needed economies of scale for commercial biofuel
production for government and private sector use.
The Navy is actively testing the performance of
biofuels— and several
major successes in 2012
point the way to further progress in commercializing second-generation biofuels.
In a March 2012 test, the Navy selected two companies to
develop biofuels for use in large-scale tests to find a replacement
for traditional diesel fuel. A leading candidate, known as Soladiesel HRD-76, is a 50/50 blend of algae-based biofuel and F-76, the
petroleum distillate fuel normally used in the Navy’s shipboard
applications. Its manufacturer, Solazyme, Inc., uses algae to break
down a wide variety of material — from plant matter to household waste — into fuel.
The Navy tested 20,000 gallons of Soladiesel HRD-76 to power
the USS Ford, a decommissioned guided-missile frigate recon-figured as a remote-controlled test ship, as it sailed from San
Diego, CA to Bremerton, WA. The primary goal of the test was to
determine whether a 50/50 blend of algae biofuel and standard
marine petroleum fuel could be used as a drop-in replacement
for conventional fuel without the need for any special equipment
Navy Lieutenant Commander Frank Kim explains, “We use the
same types of trucks, hoses, and other pier-side equipment to
transfer the fuel, and no modifications are required.” In addition,
the Ford’s engineers reported that operational performance of
the fuel system and gas turbine engines using the 50/50 blend
was comparable to operations using traditional F-76 fuel.
Another biofuel being evaluated by the Navy is made from
animal fats and wastes. Dynamic Fuels, a joint venture between
PHO TO COURTES Y OF THE U. S. DEPARTMEN T OF DEFENSE
LEFT: Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy
BELOW: Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus (in blue shirt) on the deck of the USS Princeton
during the biofueling exercise in July 2012. The tanker transporting the biofuel is to the left.
PHOTO COURTES Y OF THE U.S. NAV Y
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