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The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz Strike Group is conducting algal biofuel demonstrations for Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012, the world's largest international maritime exercise.

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz Strike Group is conducting algal biofuel demonstrations for Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012, the world's largest international maritime exercise. —U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael D. Cole

Navy’s Green Fleet on Display Amidst Troubled Waters

July 19, 2012
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

The Navy’s USS Nimitz took on more than 200,000 gallons of a 50-50 mixture of traditional petroleum-based fuel and biofuel, made up of a blend of algae oil and waste cooking oil, in preparation for the Great Green Fleet’s demonstration at Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) July 18.

“There has been a lot of rigor in our Navy to try to test biofuel and see how we can be more efficient in terms of how we operate our engines and aircraft,” said Rear Adm. Peter Gumataotao, commander Carrier Strike Group 11. “If the biofuel works it can potentially increase our legs in combat maneuverability in terms of our ability to fly longer and sail further.”

“It’s more than biofuel when you talk about energy efficiency,” Gumataotao added. “The bottom line is (the fuel) improves our combat capability and improves the way we fight.”

The Nimitz received the fuel delivery July 17, from the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser, using connecting fuel hoses between the ships. Kaiser delivered 200,000 gallons of hydro-treated renewable aviation fuel, or HRJ5, to the Nimitz, as well as 700,000 gallons of hydro-treated renewable diesel fuel, or HRD76, to three ships of the Nimitz Strike Group. The fuel was tested for accuracy and similar properties as unblended fuel in the ships’ fuel laboratories.

“If the biofuel works it can potentially increase our legs in combat maneuverability in terms of our ability to fly longer and sail further.” —Rear Adm. Peter Gumataotao

RIMPAC is the world’s largest international maritime exercise and provides a unique training opportunity for safety and security on the world’s oceans and sea lanes. Twenty-two nations, more than 40 surface ships and submarines, over 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in the exercises that run from June 29 to Aug. 3, in and around the Hawaiian Islands.

This Great Green Fleet demonstration is an important milestone in the Navy’s testing and certification of 50-50 blends of advanced hydrotreated biofuel and aviation gas.

The demonstration is being attended by the Secretary of the Navy the Honorable Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operation Jonathan Greenert. “We’ve got to look for alternative fuels, we’ve got to look for alternative opportunities, and we’ve got to be efficient in energy,” said Greenert.

ABO Applauds Green Fleet

Mary Rosenthal, executive director of the Algal Biomass Organization (ABO), released the following statement in support of the Navy’s Great Green Fleet demonstration and the biofuels derived from algae that are being tested in U.S. ships and aircraft.

“The Algal Biomass Organization congratulates the U.S. Navy on its use of domestically-produced fuels made from algae as part of its continued testing program for biofuels. 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 U.S.A, 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 US algae industry is helping reducing our reliance on imported oil, creating manufacturing jobs in rural communities, and strengthening our national security.”

A Tug of War in Washington

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that U.S. Senators who support the Pentagon’s push to expand its use of biofuels said they have a plan to answer critics who argue the fuel is far too expensive to help develop at a time when the military faces massive cuts.

Republican critics of the biofuel plan, led by Senators John McCain and James Inhofe, found enough support within the Senate Armed Services Committee in May for two proposals that could limit additional spending. The measures would stop spending on fuels that cost more than conventional fuels, and prevent spending on refineries that would help scale up production of still-experimental fuels. They were added to a bill authorizing defense programs in 2013.

The Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187), left, delivers a 50-50 blend of advanced biofuels and traditional petroleum-based fuel to the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) during the Great Green Fleet demonstration portion of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012 exercise at Pearl Harbor, July 18, 2012.

The Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187), left, delivers a 50-50 blend of advanced biofuels and traditional petroleum-based fuel to the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) during the Great Green Fleet demonstration portion of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012 exercise at Pearl Harbor, July 18, 2012. —U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ryan J. Mayes

But “Green Fleet” supporters are fighting back. “We have bipartisan support to undo the work of the committee,” said Senator Mark Udall, a Democrat from Colorado who is leading the charge.

When the defense authorization bill reaches the Senate floor, Udall said biofuels supporters may try to amend it to expressly authorize the Navy to develop biofuels to power ships and aircraft – or they could hold a vote to remove the McCain and Inhofe provisions. “It will be a substantive debate,” Udall told Reuters. “I think the story, when it’s told, will generate wide support” for defense spending on renewable energy, he said.

Republican Senator Charles Grassley said the military should be allowed to continue its “investment” so the United States can develop more alternative fuels. “Nobody would doubt that a lot of money may be wasted in the process of research, but there’s more good that comes out of it than bad,” he told Reuters.

The San Diego Connection

The U.S. military and the San Diego region have long been integral partners sharing a strong history around research, innovation and economic development. This region is home to the largest concentration of military forces in the world with 67 percent of the nation’s military training airspace located in the area, and one in four jobs in San Diego being defense-related. The military is a powerful driver for the local economy, bringing more than $30 billion to the San Diego region each year.

Those looking for firsthand information on the outcomes of the recent Navy Green Fleet algal biofuel tests in Hawaii, as well as how a “green” company does business with the military, may want to attend CleanTECH San Diego and the San Diego Military Advisory Council’s (SDMAC) special event on July 26. Rear Admiral Dixon Smith, Commander, Navy Region Southwest, the Honorable Mayor Jerry Sanders and local companies delivering clean energy solutions to the US Armed Forces will discuss how technologies advance the Navy’s energy production and consumption mandates.

Register for this event here

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