Thursday, April 15, 2010

FA18 to run on a Biofuel Blend

In my previous post I talked about USAF Test of a New Biofuel Blend. Here I will continue on the same line, but for the Navy.

Representatives of the Defense Energy Support Center and Air Transport Association of America, Inc., signed a strategic alliance agreement on 19 March 2010 in Washington, D.C., recognizing a partnership for the development and deployment of alternative aviation fuels. (DESC News Release DLA 03-18, 19 March 2010, signing event represents future of alternative aviation fuels).

The agreement highlights the shared goals of the DoD and the principal U.S. airlines to advance the development and deployment of commercially viable, environmentally friendly, alternative aviation fuels. The alliance is hoped to help promoting widespread commercialization of environmentally friendly alternative aviation fuels, and to advance the development and deployment of their commercial viability.

The alliance directs the formation of three collaborative teams, composed of ATA and DESC representatives, with each team focused on specific developmental and marketing models of the alternative fuels goals.

The environment team will identify common methodologies for life-cycle assessment of greenhouse gas emissions for alternative aviation fuels. The deployment and logistics team will identify locations or regions suitable for alternative fuels production and deployment, as well as means of distribution to and from those locations. The contracting and finance team will jointly publicize supply opportunities, explore opportunities for complementary fuel-supply agreements and develop compatible pricing and finance mechanisms.

Through the combined efforts of the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiatives fuels produced using the Fischer-Tropsch process were already approved for use in commercial aviation. The Fischer-Tropsch process uses certain chemical reactions to produce synthetic oils and fuels from coal, natural gas and biomass. Additionally, approval of a new class of hydrotreated renewable jet fuels is expected in the second half of 2010. Various plant-derived oils can be treated with water as part of a chemical reaction to produce jet fuel.

Meanwile, DARPA continues its aggressive research on biofuels. Its current BioFuels work involves Cellulosic and Algal Feedstocks program. (see DARPA Biofuels Factsheet).

And Navy is looking ahead to making its ships green or more fuel efficient by engineering solutions on how ships are fueled, powered, designed and operated. (see p.33 of OnWatch 2010 for a most recent update). Note that in September 2009, the Navy commissioned the USS Makin Island, the world's first hybrid fuel warship (gas turbine engines and electric drive). The ship is the largest amphibious assault ships in the world which are designed to carry more aircraft, equipment and personnel than their predecessors.

Alternative fuels search of the Navy extends to aircraft as well. The Navy will demonstrate the 'Green Hornet,' an F/A-18 Super Hornet (see here, here and here) powered by a 50/50 biofuel blend, on Earth Day, 22 April 2010, at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., as part of its Energy Strategy. (See presentation by Chris Tindal, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy, for a comprehensive overview of Navy’s Energy program. Also see Navy Energy Approach, Office of Naval Research science and technology focus on energy)

source: USN

Remember that Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has made energy independence a top priority for the Department of the Navy. His energy reform includes:

- Change contracting policies to include the fully burdened cost of fuel energy costs to be used as criteria,

- Green Carrier Strike Group conducts local operations by 2012, and sail the Great Green Fleet composed of nuclear ships, surface combatants with hybrid electric power systems using biofuel and aircraft flying on only biofuels by 2016,

- By 2015, reduce commercial vehicle oil use by 50%

- By 2020, at least half of shore-based energy requirements will be provided by alternative sources

- By 2020, half of total energy consumption will be from alternative sources (currently 17%).

These targets are hope to “increase warfighting capability by reducing reliance on fossil fuels from unstable locations and reducing volatility associated with long fuel supply transport lines.”

The 'Green Hornet' flight is considered to be an important step in the certification and ultimate operational use of biofuels by the Navy and Marine Corps. The feedstock for the biofuel to be tested is derived from the camelina sativa plant, which is a US-grown, renewable, non-food source. The objective of the test flight program is to confirm there is no difference in performance between the biofuel blend derived from the camelina plant and standard petroleum-based JP-5. After the test is successful, the Navy will move to expand biofuel testing to marine gas turbine engines and to the engines of tactical vehicles. The DESC recently awarded a $2.7 million contract to Sustainable Oils of Seattle and Bozeman, Montana for 40,000 gallons of the camelina-based fuel.

See also my post on Navy's Green Great Fleet.

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