US Navy Powers Destroyer with Biofuel in 20 Hour Trip Along California Coast

Published Nov 17, 2011 10:11 AM by The Maritime Executive

On Thursday the U.S. Navy completed the first leg of its largest alternative fuel test onboard a destroyer along the California coast.

Twenty-thousand gallons of algae-based fuel was pumped into the retired destroyer, PAUL H. FOSTER, for the 20 hour trip that began Wednesday. The successful overnight trip is a big step in paving the way for a plan to unveil a small carrier strike group of destroyers, cruisers, aircraft, submarines and a carrier to run on alternative fuels and nuclear power next year.

The Navy has been investing millions into alternative energies, in an effort to cut its dependence on foreign oil and strengthen national security. The Navy hopes to deploy a “Great Green Fleet” of nuclear vessels, hybrid electric ships and other ships and aircraft powered by biofuels by the year 2016.

The Navy says that the PAUL H. FOSTER was filled with a mixture of 50-50 hydroprocessed algal oil produced by San Francisco-based Solazyme, and petroleum.
Right now the Navy uses more than 90 percent of the energy consumed by the federal government, and budgets about $1 billion a year for energy costs. These biofuels burn cleaner than fossils fuels, require no drilling and are grown in the US, processed in the US, and refined in the US. The down side to biofuels is the high cost. So far the industry has not been able to produce a product at a rate competitive to petroleum. Experts say the alternative fuels industry has the challenge of producing enough volume to reach a commoditized price.

Solazyme’s biofuel is comes from an algal oil produced by the algae after they’ve consumed sun energized plants like sugar beets and switch grass. Solazyme says their fuels can be refined for use in jet fuel, bio-diesel, cooking oil and even cosmetics.
The Navy, who says no modifications were made to the FOSTER’s engine, will continue to run tests monitoring its engine, propulsion and consumption. 

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (Oct. 20, 2011) Chief Warrant Officer 3 Eric Jones, the waterfront maintenance officer for Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2, holds samples of the traditional F-76 diesel fuel and the 50/50 blend biofuel during a public briefing at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. Utilizing technology like biofuel supports the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) the Honorable Ray Mabus' goal to reduce petroleum consumption by 50 percent by 2015. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Lolita Lewis/Released)