Biofuels in the DOD

Since the beginning of this year the Department of Defense was going full speed with its “greening” efforts, particularly with biofuels. Here is what happened in the past month.

Towards the end of February the US Air Force has been conducting extensive field tests of a 50-50 blend of camelina biofuel and regular JP-8 jet fuel. Two F-16s from the 180th FW fleet have been designated to test the 50/50 blend of Jet Propellant-8 petroleum and Hydroprocessed Renewable Jet fuel derived from the camelina plant.

Several important things happened in March.

On 1 March 2012, the American Security Project released a FACT SHEET: Bio Fuels and National Security. ASP says that “Dependence on oil is one of America’s most critical threats to long-term national security because of concerns about its availability and the strategic need to secure fuel sources in unstable regions. The U.S. Department of Defense understands this threat better than anyone else, and that is why they are investing in developing a domestic biofuels industry that can compete with oil. This factsheet shows the importance of that project.” ( )

ASP also hosted a briefing, “Biofuels for National Security: Air Force and Navy Progress on Renewable Fuels.” Listen to the podcast HERE. The guests were Commander James Goudreau, Director in the Navy Energy Coordination Office and Carol Ann Beda, Director of Energy Policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Energy. Both speakers underlined that the move away from petroleum-based fuels was not at all political or about being “green”. Instead, a move to biofuels was all about increasing mission combat capability. There were two common, and related, reasons cited for moving towards biofuels: budgetary and energy security.

On 2 March 2012, USS Ford (FFG 54) successfully transited from the ship’s homeport in Everett, Washington to San Diego using 25,000 gallons of a 50/50 algae-derived, hydro-processed algal oil and petroleum F-76 blend in the ships LM 2500 gas turbines. Its voyage on the algal blend marks the first demonstration of the alternative fuel blend in an operational fleet ship. (USS Ford Conducts Operational Transit on Alternative Fuel Blend). Note that on 24 Jan 2012, Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) scientists and engineers successfully demonstrated the ability to run a small two-cycle outboard engine an algae-based diesel fuel. This type of engine is used to propel combat rubber raiding craft.

As you may know, the Navy will sail a “green” carrier strike group around Hawaii using a 50% biofuel blend during the coming summer’s Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC). Until then all Navy ships will have been tested on biofuel blend. Four ships will sail under the biofuel blend, along with a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. All the aircraft will fly on the same mix. A larger strike group of 11 ships, dubbed Great Green Fleet, will follow in 2016.

On 6-8 March 2012, Cmdr. James Goudreau, director of the Navy Energy Coordination Office, explained the critical role of energy at the 7th Annual Military Energy Alternatives Conference in Falls Church, Va. Here are his important remarks:  “First and foremost, Navy energy is about the warfighter. Our reason to pursue these initiatives is to deliver greater combat capability. Reduced consumption of energy and increased use of alternative energy comprise the Navy’s two-pronged approach to improving combat capability and achieving energy security.”

“Energy efficiency reduces consumption and is achieved by modifying the current fleet, changing the acquisition process to consider energy in future weapons platforms, and changing Navy’s culture to value energy as tactical, operational, and strategic assets.”

On 9 March 2012, The U.S. Army announced that it is testing a fleet of 16 General Motors hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in Hawaii to demonstrate the practicality and applicability of hydrogen fuel cell technology. Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski, commanding general of U.S. Army, Pacific, said “These fuel cell vehicles will help move the U.S. Army in the Pacific toward a sustainable path that reduces energy security challenges and strengthens our energy independence.” The vehicles are funded by the Army Tank Automotive Research Development Engineering Center, Office of Naval Research and Air Force Research Laboratories. The vehicles travel up to 200 miles on a single charge, refuel in five minutes and produce zero emissions. ( )

On 9 March 2012, the DOD released an implementation plan for cutting energy consumption in military operations. The plan outlines a three-part strategy of reducing the demand for energy, securing diverse options beyond fossil fuels, and building energy security considerations into all military planning. The plan creates a Defense Operational Energy Board to oversee the department’s progress. ( )

On 12 March 2012, The Navy hosted a field hearing for the Senate Energy subcommittee on energy and water policies being implemented by Department of the Navy operations and facilities. The hearing was held aboard multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), moored at Naval Station Norfolk, March 12. Navy Secretary Mabus praised again biofuels and defended the Navy’s green energy initiatives.

On 12 March 2012, the US President Obama released a progress report, for the administration’s progress report for the Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future. One year ago, the President put forward a plan in the Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future that outlined the Administration’s all-of-the-above approach to American energy. There is a complete section on the US military in this report.

The following post has been provided by Diana Potts with G&E Advisor (

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