Posting in Energy
The USS Ford sailed from Everett, Wash. to San Diego using a biofuel derived from algae.
As many countries seek to use more clean energy, most of us are familiar with the usual suspects: solar, wind, water, to name a few. But using algae as a source of energy?
The U.S. Navy seems to think so. Its USS Ford frigate recently used 25,000 gallons of algae biofuel to power its voyage from Everett, Wash. down to San Diego - making this the Navy's largest trial of alternative fuel usage at a distance of around 1,200 nautical miles [PDF]. The trek was made using an algae-derived, hydro-processed oil, produced by San Francisco-based Solazyme, mixed in even proportions with F-76 military diesel fuel.
This effort followed a trip last November in which a remotely-controlled destroyer, powered by equal parts algae biofuel and standard petroleum fuel traveled around 150 miles in 17 hours up the California coast. Following that trip, the Navy said "there was absolutely no difference, whatsoever, in the operation or performance of the ship” using the algae derivative. Solazyme said results were the same on the more recent trip.
The Navy plans to deploy a "Great Green Fleet" by 2016 which will be powered entirely by alternative fuels. It has also set a target of 50 percent alternative energy usage by 2020.
Solazyme produces the biofuel by fermenting algae to produce an oil that can be refined into fuel. The Navy has also been working with Louisiana-based Dynamic Fuels, a company that produces biofuel out of cooking oil and non-food-grade animal fats. In December 2011, the Navy agreed to purchase 450,000 gallons of biofuels for $12 million from both companies, to provide energy for a carrier group in maritime exercises later this year.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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Mar 20, 2012
What is the cost of this fuel? I have heard it runs around $26 a gallon. Also, could it ever be produced in large enough quantity to make it feasible?
Inasmuch as over 95 [ercent of global trade is carried at sea, the implications for this are great. Good article.
The money used to pay for the higher cost of this fuel may be better spent adding ships to our over extended fleet. I'll take a larger fleet over a green fleet any day.
Why pray tell was a remote controlled destroyer necessary to test a 50/50 mix of biofuel? It doesn't intuitively strike me as being that explosive.
The motivation is not to be environmentally responsible. That's just a bonus. The motivation is to decouple operating expenses from the market price of crude oil by providing the services with an independent fuel supply.
described in Wiki as "the Self Defense Test Ship (SDTS) is one of the assets of the US Navy. It is a refurbished ship, operated by remote control, which is designed to support self-defense engineering, testing, and evaluation. Being unmanned, it avoids the safety constraints and other problems associated with manned ships. During typical operations, launched threats attack the ship and the combat or weapon system being tested responds to these threats, defending the ship." In other words, it's the biggest target drone ever.
There was no suggestion that using remote control meant the fuel was explosive. My "intuition" tells me that should the fuel prove to not work -- it gummed up the system, it didn't have enough energy, etc. -- the Navy wouldn't have to worry about a dead ship with a crew on board. All they would have to do is tow it to port.
Marine diesel is running between $3.50 and $4.50 a gallon for purchases over 4,000 gallons in most major harbors on the west coast. Being typical government contracts I would guess the US Navy spends about $10 a gallon. http://www.portofeverett.com/docs/docs-_112887-v1-fuel_price_comparison.pdf At more than $26 per gallon this stuff is far from cost effective to impliment even if the Navy is spending $10 a gallon. Until market forces or the Obama administration, drives up the price of marine diesel to those levels, this project is nothing better than the war time contingency it has been for the US Navy since the end of WW II. That is why there has always been government funding for a modest production capability in the US since the 1950s. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-21/some-biofuels-too-expensive-for-anybody-except-u-s-navy.html The Navy has more cost effective programs for going green already underway. http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=37972