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Will the Navy’s Green Strike Group Sail Again?, Part 1

"As with the development of any new technology, up-front research and development costs in alternative fuels are a necessary part of getting to a new way to power the fleet."

By JIM LANE, Editor & Publisher, Biofuels Digest

In Hawaii, the U.S. Navy demonstrated its Green Strike Group as part of the 2012 Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise that included 40 surface ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel from 22 different nations.

On July 17th, military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187) delivered 700,000 gallons of hydro-treated renewable diesel fuel, or HRD76, to three ships of the strike group. Kaiser also delivered 200,000 gallons of hydro-treated renewable aviation fuel, or HRJ5, to Nimitz. The fuels were provided by Solazyme and Dynamic Fuels.

Both fuels are a 50/50 blend of traditional petroleum-based fuel and biofuel comprised of a mix of waste cooking oil and algae oil. The fuel delivery was part of the Navy’s Great Green Fleet demonstration, which allows the Navy to test, evaluate and demonstrate the cross-platform utility and functionality of advanced biofuels in an operational setting.

Vice Admiral Philip Hart Cullom, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Fleet Readiness & Logistics

Energy is an integral part of warfighting. It has been since the Industrial Revolution, and that’s not about to change. If you are a sailor, government civilian or a contractor on the Navy team reading this blog, I ask you to do your part by thinking energy in everything you do.

“As part of the international Rim of the Pacific Exercise, the Navy embarks on the largest demonstration of military operations using renewable biofuel. In the modern age of warfare, energy is fundamental to our warfighting. We use it in our aircraft, ships and expeditionary vehicles, and throughout our shore infrastructure. Unfortunately, this makes fuel both an indispensable enabler of our warfighting and a major potential liability.

“When there are unpredictable spikes in the price of fuel, our sailors and marines are likely to fly less, steam less and train less. This is not an insubstantial expense, and we cannot, and should not, trade readiness for fuel.

“Advanced second- and third-generation alternative fuels, such as those we are experimenting with during RIMPAC, will allow us to continue to perform our mission in a manner that frees us from relying upon a diminishing resource. As with the development of any new technology or product, up-front research and development costs in alternative fuels are a necessary part of getting to a new way to power the fleet. Technological advances and demand are beginning to drive economies of scale, and production quantities that can drive down the costs of alternative fuels.”

Vice Admiral Cullom also provided a video message, available here via YouTube.

Michael McAdams, President, Advanced Biofuels Association

“This is a significant achievement for America’s domestic biofuels industry, and a proud moment for our nation as we’re seeing the results of American ingenuity and innovation in this home-grown advanced biofuel that is successfully powering the world’s largest state-of-the-art warships. What’s happening today in the waters of the Pacific is proof that America’s domestic biofuels industry is no longer assessing hypotheticals of ifs or whens. Instead, today, we are now asking, how much do you need? Moving from the beaker to the barrel, all in record time.”

Mary Rosenthal, Executive Director, Algal Biomass Organization

“Today’s successful demonstration of the ‘Great Green Fleet’ at the Rim of the Pacific Exercise is the latest in a series of tests by the Navy and other major players that show that algae-based fuels can perform the same, or better, than petroleum fuels.

“Fuels made from algae are made in the USA, are 100 percent compatible with existing infrastructure and, in the near future, will be price-competitive with petroleum. By developing domestic alternatives to petroleum, the U.S. algae industry is helping to reduce our reliance on imported oil, creating manufacturing jobs in rural communities and strengthening our national security.”

The Six Big Myths of Military Biofuels

Myths abound on military biofuels — some passed around by the usual suspects in an attempt to create fear, uncertainty and doubt, and thereby win crucial political points during an election season.

As a Reuters report notes, “Congressional Republicans have denounced the military’s green energy push as another attempt by the Obama administration to promote alternative fuels even when they make little economic sense, as in the case of the government-funded solar panel maker Solyndra, which went bankrupt last year.”

Others seem more to be the product of naïveté, often by members of the media who struggle to master the science and economics of energy under the pressure of journalistic deadlines.

In this context, we’d like to examine assertions made in a feature story on the Green Strike Group published in Wired’s online Danger Room, entitled “How the Navy’s Incompetence Sank the ‘Green Fleet.”

Please tune into the Chemical Equipment Daily for part two of this two-part series. What’s your take? Please feel free to comment below! Copyright 2012; Biofuels Digest