Navy to Demonstrate Biofuel Use During Exercise

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2011 — The U.S. Navy will employ a bio­fu­el blend to pow­er air­craft and most ves­sels par­tic­i­pat­ing in a mar­itime exer­cise that’s slat­ed to be con­duct­ed near Hawaii next sum­mer, senior offi­cials told reporters today.

Navy Sec­re­tary Ray Mabus and U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Tom Vil­sack held a con­fer­ence call with reporters this morn­ing to dis­cuss a con­tract the Defense Logis­tics Agency announced last week for 450,000 gal­lons of bio­fu­el that will pow­er a Navy car­ri­er group dur­ing a mar­itime exer­cise next sum­mer.

The con­tract is the largest gov­ern­ment pur­chase of bio­fu­el in his­to­ry, and pro­vides $12 mil­lion to sup­pli­ers Solazyme and Dynam­ic Fuels LLC, a joint ven­ture of Tyson Foods, Inc. and Syn­tro­le­um Cor­po­ra­tion.

Solazyme’s bio­fu­el is algae-based, Mabus explained, while Dynamic’s is made from used cook­ing oil and non-food-grade ani­mal fats.

So-called drop-in fuels can work with­out engine mod­i­fi­ca­tions, and Mabus not­ed the Navy has already cer­ti­fied that its ship and air­craft engines will per­form on the new fuels.

He said the fuel “met all our cri­te­ria — that it be a drop-in bio­fu­el, that come from non­food sources, and that it not increase the car­bon foot­print.”

The fuels will be com­bined in a 50–50 blend with petro­le­um-based diesel and avi­a­tion fuel to pow­er the U.S. ships and air­craft tak­ing part in the Rim of the Pacif­ic or RIMPAC exer­cise, the world’s largest inter­na­tion­al mar­itime exer­cise, sched­uled to take place off Hawaii next sum­mer, the Navy sec­re­tary added.

The car­ri­er that anchors the strike group is nuclear-pow­ered, Mabus not­ed, but all oth­er Navy craft involved in the exer­cise will use bio­fu­el.

“We think that this rep­re­sents a major step in ener­gy inde­pen­dence for the Unit­ed States in mak­ing the Unit­ed States Navy a bet­ter war-fight­ing oper­a­tion,” Mabus said, “and in reduc­ing our depen­dence on unsta­ble sources of for­eign ener­gy, as well as reduc­ing the bud­get shocks that come with buy­ing fuel from either poten­tial­ly or actu­al­ly unsta­ble place on earth.”

Use of fos­sil fuels “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,” Mabus added.

While the DLA pur­chase is a small frac­tion of the Navy’s annu­al fuel con­sump­tion of 1.26 bil­lion gal­lons, sup­port­ing the nation’s fledg­ling bio­fu­el indus­try will ulti­mate­ly make the Navy “bet­ter war fight­ers,” the Navy sec­re­tary said.

The Navy plans to fol­low the RIMPAC demon­stra­tion with a 2016 mul­ti-month car­ri­er group deploy­ment using 50 per­cent bio­fu­el for sur­face ships and air­craft, Mabus said.

The Navy has through­out his­to­ry led new devel­op­ments in fuel, he not­ed: from sail to coal in the 1800s, from coal to oil in the ear­ly 1900s to nuclear pow­er in the 1950s.

“We’re going to lead once again by help­ing estab­lish a mar­ket for bio­fu­els now,” Mabus said.

Bio­fu­el use lessens America’s depen­dence on for­eign oil and fos­sil fuels, he said, and increas­es the nation’s abil­i­ty to com­pete in the glob­al ener­gy mar­ket.

“This is not only going to help the Navy … [and] our nation­al secu­ri­ty, but it’s going to help the farm­ers and agri­cul­ture in the Unit­ed States,” Mabus said.

Vil­sack said the bio­fu­el pur­chase is a turn­ing point in the part­ner­ship that includes the U.S. Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, the Navy and the Ener­gy Depart­ment under Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s “Blue­print for a Secure Ener­gy Future,” which tasked the three to advance a domes­tic indus­try capa­ble of pro­duc­ing “drop-in” bio­fu­el sub­sti­tutes for diesel and jet fuel.

More than 300 facil­i­ties in the Unit­ed States are now pro­duc­ing ethanol and biodiesel, he not­ed.

Agri­cul­ture offi­cials have this year helped finance loans for two refiner­ies that will pro­duce bio­fu­el from non­food feed stocks, Vil­sack said, and they expect to announce addi­tion­al projects next year.

Vil­sack not­ed that Agri­cul­tur­al Research Ser­vice and Nation­al For­est Ser­vice sci­en­tists have been work­ing with indus­try to iden­ti­fy and devel­op addi­tion­al non­food, “feed stocks” for bio­fu­els, and the For­est Ser­vice announced $118 mil­lion in grants for feed­stock devel­op­ment.

Agri­cul­ture Depart­ment offi­cials are also research­ing sup­ply chain man­age­ment to ensure bio­fu­el prod­ucts can effi­cient­ly reach the Navy mar­ket and oth­er emerg­ing mar­kets, includ­ing the nation’s com­mer­cial air car­ri­ers, he added.

“Today’s announce­ment, I think, under­scores the fact that the future for the Navy … [and] this coun­try lies in ener­gy secu­ri­ty, and basi­cal­ly con­trol­ling our own des­tiny by pro­duc­ing our own fuels in a cre­ative and inno­v­a­tive way,” Vil­sack said.

(Navy News Ser­vice con­tributed to this arti­cle.)

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)