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U.S. Navy Success with Alternative Fuels

test ship
The ex-Paul F. Foster anchored off the southern coast of California. Paul F. Foster serves as the new Self Defense Test Ship for Naval Surface Warfare Center. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy M. Black/Released)

By MarEx 2016-07-07 19:41:27

The U.S. Navy’s Self Defense Test Ship has successfully completed trials involving two alternative fuels.

At the end of May, the Self Defense Test Ship (SDTS) traveled to San Diego, where it took on approximately 30,000 gallons of two types of alternative fuels. The ship then proceeded on a normal cruise, demonstrating that the alternative fuels could function as a drop-in replacement, requiring no changes to equipment or operating procedures. 

The two fuels were developed using different methods: Synthetic Iso-Paraffin (SIP) and Catalytic Hydrothermolysis Conversion Diesel (CHCD). SIP is a fuel derived from alternative feedstock and blended with military-grade petroleum-based fuel, known as F-76, with 20 percent non-petroleum sourced. CHCD is a military grade drop-in replacement for traditional F-76 that is 100 percent non-petroleum sourced.

"The goal is to qualify as many alternative fuel sources as possible," Diane Mattingly, in-service engineer with Naval Surface Warfare Command, Philadelphia Division, said. "A range of operational fuel sources will give our mission planners and commanders increased operational flexibility."

The objective of this particular test was twofold: first, to demonstrate that these alternative fuels are drop-in replacements for petroleum-sourced F-76- meaning they require no equipment modifications or operational modifications by the crew; second, to ensure that approved alternatively-sourced fuels perform equally to, or better than, existing petroleum-sourced fuels.

For this mission, the alternatively-sourced fuels were loaded into the two gas-turbine engines and the two gas-turbine generators. The test period lasted approximately 12 hours. While under the power of the alternatively-sourced fuels the ship successfully completed multiple engine starts and speed changes. There were no mechanical, operational or qualitative differences when operating on either fuel. 

In October 2009, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus directed the Navy to decrease its reliance on fossil fuels and set the goal of at least 50 percent of the Navy's energy consumption coming from alternative sources by 2020.

The alternative fuels were to come from non-food sources, be compatible with all existing hardware and not compromise performance, handling or safety. The use of alternatively-sourced fuels would improve the Navy's energy independence and lessen environmental impact.

In 2011, the SDTS tested 15,000 gallons of a 50/50 blend of fuel, and it was a success.