Navy's Great Green Fleet
In 1912 the Navy's first two oil-burning battleships USS Nevada (BB-36) and USS Oklahoma (BB-37) were laid down, and were commissioned in 1916. A decade later, USS Cheyenne (Wyoming) was modernized (in 1927), exchanging her coal-fired boilers for new oil-burning types, i.e., Converted from a coal burner to an oil burner. (can anyone help me on the true order in this story?)
Oil meant tactical advantage. As Secretary of Navy says it allowed ships to stay at sea longer, replenish themselves underway from oilers rather than import from coal bunkers, and oil reduced the need for ships to maintain huge divisions of stokers.
Now, from 1909 let me fast forward to 2009. The USA Navy still runs on oil, consuming over 1.3 billion gallons (or about 85,000 barrels per day), and I don’t see any escape from using it. But top US military officials have a different opinion. They think (or maybe even believe) that the so-called Great Green Fleet can become a reality by 2016. Yes, by 2016!
Before documenting the concept let us have a look at The Road to a Greener Navy: 10 Facts on the Navy’s Quest for Alternative Fuels:
1. The Department of Navy consumes 1.3 billion gallons of fuel per year and is the second largest consumer of fuel in the Department of the Defense (US Air Force is 1st, Army is 3rd).
2. Every $10 increase in the price of a barrel of oil increases Navy fuel costs by almost $300 million.
3. The Navy has set aggressive goals to reduce its reliance on oil, including a 10% annual increase in alternative fuels use by base support vehicles and equipment.
4. Over 3,000 Electric and Natural Gas vehicles are currently in use on Navy bases. Electric and Natural Gas vehicles might be the most efficient land-based alternative energy solution since they require no conversion from the form in which they are produced or mined and are naturally transportable.
5. Alternatives to petroleum-based fuel are endless. Pond scum (algae), non-food crops, biomass, wastes and CO2 are among the many energy sources currently under study.
6. Algae fields can produce 6,000 gallons of oil per acre. A land area of 500 square miles (or 2 times the size of Washington, D.C.) could yield enough oil to meet all of the Navy’s annual fuel needs. In comparison, US oilfields currently occupy 40,000 square miles.
7. Biofuels derived from algae and the oilseeds of the Camelina sativa plant will be used in the Navy’s “Green” Hornet and “Green” Ship initiatives.
8. More than 200,000 gallons of algae- and camelina-based fuel will be delivered to the Navy for test and evaluation. These sources will be the first liquid alternatives to petroleum to be certified for future use.
9. The first Navy aircraft engine to run on bio-fuel was successfully tested in October 2009 at the Naval Air Warfare Center Patuxent River, Md.
10. First flight of the Navy’s F/A-18 “Green” Hornet will take flight in the spring of 2010. The camelina-based biofuel will be blended in a 50-50 mix with standard, petroleum-based JP-5 jet fuel
Like all the other US military services, Department of Navy is also very much fascinated with the word “green”. There are many ongoing initiatives and research. (see my previous post Navy Incentives to save fuel). Some are well grounded, some are good examples and some are interesting. For instance in this year’s Secretary of Navy Awards (SECNAV Awards Recognize Energy, Water Efficiency) we learn that Naval Base Kitsap (Bremerton, Wash.) maintains an energy waste hotline, and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (San Diego, Calif.) was selected as the pilot location under the DoD/Department of Energy Joint Venture Toward Net Zero Energy Installations.
Now let me focus on the Remarks by the Navy Secretary Ray Mabus at the Navy Energy Forum on 14 October 2009 in McLean, Va. (see also other presentation) in which he announced five energy targets the Navy will meet over the course of the next decade. His bold, aggressive and ambitious Green Goals given below are aimed at enhancing the strategic, tactical and operational capabilities of the Navy and Marine Corps along with enhancing environmental stewardship.
Here are the Green Goals of Mabus, followed by my comments in parentheses:
“First: we are going to change the way the Navy and Marine Corps awards contracts. The lifetime energy cost of a building or a system, and the fully burdened cost of fuel in powering those, will be a mandatory evaluation factor used when awarding contracts. We are going to hold industry contractually accountable for meeting energy targets and system efficiency requirements. And we’re going to do more. We will also use the overall energy efficiency and the energy footprint of a competing company as an additional factor in acquisition decisions. We want industry to partner with us and take steps not just to provide us with more energy efficient products, but to produce those products in energy efficient ways. “
(SK: Reshaping the Navy’s approach to awarding shipbuilding and weapons contracts by adding a mandatory evaluation factor for lifetime energy consumption costs and the fully burdened cost of energy is a very good initiative. In fact this is not new. Congress had already asked for it. What new is contractors’ carbon footprint. Let be realistic. Imagine that extra criteria in USAF KC-X acquisition hole without a bottom)
“Second: The Navy will demonstrate in local operations by 2012 a Green Strike Group composed of nuclear vessels and ships powered by biofuel. And by 2016, we will sail that Strike Group as aOil was first tested in the U.S. Navy on small ships. USS Palos, a tug in Boston Navy Yard, was the first U.S. Navy ship to test this type of fuel. As a coal burner, Palos did eight knots but when converted to oil it did over 14. This successful test led to the testing of oil on larger ships. In January 1909 the USS Cheyenne (formally USS Wyoming) became the first large ship to use oil. Another Navy site says that the first oil-burning American destroyer, USS Paulding was commissioned in September 1910, and by 1911 the USS Nevada-class battleship was planned for solely oil as fuel.
(SK: Amen! Mabus acknowledged that biofuel prices are high, but he believes that the prices will go down as biofuel production increases and that the military’s shift to greater biofuel use will incentivize more biofuel production. To fill the 450,000 gallon fuel tank on the Navy’s DDG-51 destroyer today costs $643,000. Last summer it cost $1.8 million to fill the destroyer’s tanks when oil prices soared above $100 per barrel. Imagine to fill it with expensive biofuels. And also imagine extra space a destroyer will need for storage. Note that 1 gallon of biofuel has less heat content that one gallon of traditional oil.)
“Third: the Department of the Navy will by 2015 reduce petroleum use in our 50,000 strong commercial fleet in half - by 50 percent. We’ll do this by replacing our current fleet, as they go out of service, with a new composite fleet of flex fuel vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles, and neighborhood electric vehicles. Moving to biofuels and electric vehicles will benefit the local communities where our bases are located and will spur adoption of similar vehicles in those neighborhoods.” (SK: No way) 
“Fourth: the Department of the Navy will by 2020 produce at least half of our shore-based energy requirements on our installations from alternative sources. We will boost our usage of renewable energy and in some cases we will supply power to the grid from solar, wind, ocean, or geothermal sources generated by the base. We’re already doing this at China Lake, where our on-base systems generate 20 times the load of the base.”
(SK: To achieve this target is somewhere between very difficult and impossible. This target is achievable if the words “at least” are replaced by “at most”, and the word “CONUS” is added somewhere, and if the word “energy” is replaced by “power”. The word energy as he uses includes natural gas and oil)
“Lastly, and maybe most importantly, I am asking all of us to meet a very ambitious goal. Today, about 17 percent of our total energy consumption comes from alternative sources. By 2020, half of our total energy consumption for ships, aircraft, tanks, vehicles, and shore installations will come from alternative sources. Right now I’m told 40 percent is a more realistic goal and even that remains difficult because of the cost and logistics.” (SK: my comment above applies here too)
Mabus adds that the Navy is “placing hybrid electric systems like that on Makin Island on 12 DDGs, and we’re going to save almost $1 million per ship per year….. [the new anti-fouling coating that’s being tested in the fleet] will save up to $180,000 per year per ship in fuel costs due to reduced drag from barnacles and marine growth. Once implemented fleet-wide, in combination with other measures like installation of stern flaps on our amphibious ships that increase fuel efficiency, an aggressive energy conservation program with strong incentives and the use of new voyage planning tools, for an additional investment of only $550 million, we’ll get about $400 million savings per year……. All told, we have the opportunity to improve our energy generation ashore over the next ten years by almost 370 MW, enough energy to power 250,000 homes – or all the households in a city the size of Boston.”
Now let me look at the Green Hornet issue.
In October 2009 Navy engineers at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. conducted the initial tests on an F404 F/A-18 jet engine to determine if it could run on JP-5 derived from a renewable resource. (Initial test proves Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet can fly on ‘green fuel’) The aim is to come up with a biofuel powered jet engine for a new F/A-18, so-called “Green Hornet”. The fuel used in the tests was created from the camelina plant, which is in the same family of plants as the mustard seed and rapeseed. It needs little water or nitrogen to flourish and can be grown on marginal agricultural soil. Why camelina? Because it does not compete with food crops.
More tests will occur in the December-January timeframe on the F414, the engine for the Super Hornet. The first actual flight fueled with a renewable fuel blended with the current JP-5 is expected next spring.
According to Secretary Manus, improvements to the traditionally fueled F/A-18 engines will increase the fuel efficiency of each aircraft by three percent, allowing the planes to fly further on the same tank of fuel and potentially save 127,000 barrels of fuel per plane per year. (Navy Launches Green Hornet)
According to Mabus Green Hornet “is going to fly within 3 years. And although the cost of the fuel used in that engine is high right now – it is still cheaper than putting gas into a generator on the battlefield in Afghanistan. And that cost will fall as the scale of production is increased. At the same time, improvements to F/A-18 engines that will be in service by 2015 will improve the efficiency of the aircraft by 3 percent. The improvements will not only allow the aircraft to fly longer, faster, or farther on the same tank, but could save us 127,000 barrels of fuel per year, amounting to $15 million for the Fleet per year at today's fuel prices.”
The F/A-18 Strike Fighter Program Office at the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) has already been working on the development of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in order to make the original Hornets environmentally friendly. Super Hornet entered the fleet in 1999. They were also dubbing it Green Hornet. But the word “Green” meant less nitrogen oxides emissions, carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons, and fuel consumption without compromising engine performance attributes such as thrust, weight, and cost. (see Currents, Spring 2007 issue). The Mabus’ Green is adding biofuels into it.
In sum, Green Goals of Mabus are certainly extremely ambitious. In fact, many are on the border of wishful thinking. Easier said than done. What would be the total cost to of the Great Green Fleet? What is the replacement cost of conventional vehicles with hybrids. Right, technology might save us. But not in 6 years time.
Mr. Mabus says he is not asking the impossible. If his goals are not impossible I really wonder what impossible is. He further adds that “I am asking you to make the future a more secure and better place.” What all his goals have to do with more secure and better place? And for whom?