US Navy Jets And Ships Ready For Drop-In Biofuel

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US Navy Jets And Ships Ready For Drop-In Biofuel

Beginning in 2016-17 more than 100 million gallons of military-grade biofuel will be produced annually at a price competitive with their petroleum counterparts. “Drop-in” biofuel provides a direct replacement to petroleum-based diesel and jet fuel, without any need for changes to existing fuel distribution networks or engines. The US Navy is fully on board for this upgrade.

This flexibility will allow military and commercial planes to transition to a clean, domestic fuel source. Emitting less than half the greenhouse gas emissions than their petroleum counterparts, this biofuel can be blended up to 50% with traditional fuels. Not only will this reduce environmental impact, but it also boosts national security by providing a domestic alternative fuel supply.

Biorefineries are similar to petroleum refineries in concept; however, instead of relying on petroleum or other fossil resources, biorefineries use organic matter to produce a variety of fuels, bioproducts, and chemicals, as well as heat and power. Advanced biomass-based fuels that use a domestic, nonfood renewable feedstock can provide a reliable alternative that reduces the risks associated with petroleum dependence. The Energy Department is committed to supporting the advanced energy technologies needed to produce renewable biofuels capable of meeting military specifications.

Biofuels Successfully Tested At Navy RIMPAC 2012

During the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) demonstration in 2012 for ships and planes, The drop-in alternative fuel successfully demonstrated that it can be utilized in Navy warfighting platforms with no degradation to performance or mission. 


(Image Notes: PACIFIC OCEAN (July 18, 2012) The guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) receives biofuel from the Military Sealift Command’s fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187) during a replenishment at sea (RAS). The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and the guided missile-destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) seen in formation also received the biofuel during the Great Green Fleet Demonstration of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012. The fuel is a 50/50 blend of advanced biofuel and traditional petroleum-based fuel. Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel participated in the RIMPAC exercise from June 29 to Aug. 3, in and around the Hawaiian Islands. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Ryan J. Mayes/RELEASED)

Three New Commercial-Scale Biorefinery Contracts

On September 19, 2014, Secretary Ray Mabus of the U.S. Department of Navy joined Energy Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman and Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to announce awards for three commercial-scale biorefinery projects that will help meet the transportation needs of the U.S. military and private sector.

“The contracts being announced today will help expand the operational capability of our Navy and Marine Corps around the world,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.  “In today’s complex fiscal environment, we are balancing our mission with our resources and we must be innovative and forward-thinking.  Programs like these help keep our operational capabilities on the cutting edge. This is how Sailors and Marines defend our great nation.”

“This is a tremendous announcement for America’s national security and our economy,” said Agriculture Secretary Vilsack. “Any time our military can use more American grown fuels instead of relying on foreign sources it makes our armed forces more energy secure. And the expansion of our advanced biofuel sector means the creation of good jobs across the country, especially in many of our rural communities.” 

“Advanced biomass-based transportation fuels have the potential to provide a reliable and cost-effective alternative to traditional fuel sources,” said Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman. “By advancing technologies that reduce our carbon emissions, this multi-agency partnership is demonstrating that by protecting our energy and environmental security, we will enhance our national security as well.”

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Investing In Energy And Environmental Security

The Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy works in partnership with industry to develop, build, operate and validate integrated biorefineries across the country at various scales (pilot, demonstration, and commercial).

In 2013, $18 million was invested in four innovative pilot-scale biorefineries in California, Iowa and Washington to test renewable biofuels as a domestic alternative to power cars, trucks, and planes that meet military specifications for jet fuel and shipboard diesel. The innovative biorefinery pilot-scale projects marked an important step toward producing fuels from renewable, nonfood resources found in the United States.

Ushering In The “New Normal” of Naval Supremacy

The three new commercial-scale projects awarded last week are made through the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Defense Protection Act (DPA) of 1950. They will further the Administration’s goals to boost and diversify the domestic fuel supply base, make American warfighters less beholden to volatile oil markets, and strengthen national security. As these fuels become more available, the Department of the Navy will make advanced drop-in biofuel a regular part of its bulk fuel procurement, ushering in the “new normal” of Naval supremacy.

The following three companies are receiving federal investments for the construction and commissioning of the new commercial-scale biorefineries:

Emerald Biofuels: To build and operate an 82 million gallon per year refinery on the Gulf Coast to hydro-treat and upgrade waste fats, oils, and greases to create military-grade jet fuel and diesel. 

Fulcrum BioEnergy: To build and operate a refinery in McCarran, Nevada, to convert municipal solid waste, using gasification and Fischer-Tröpsch conversion technology, into more than 10 million gallons of renewable jet and diesel fuel a year.

Red Rock Biofuels: To build and operate a 12 million gallon per year refinery in Lakeview, Oregon, using gasification and Fischer-Tröpsch conversion technology to turn forest biomass and wood wastes into renewable fuels for the military. 

President Obama’s “All-Of-The-Above” Strategy

Advanced biofuels have the potential to displace approximately one-third of the nation’s current transportation petroleum use, according to the Energy Department’s Billion Ton Study. Energy Secretary Steven Chu states, “Advanced biofuels are an important part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above strategy to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, improve our energy security and protect our air and water.”

(Image Notes: DOE PDU Biorefinery, 2011. Aerial view of Rentech’s Product Demonstration Unit (PDU) in Commerce City, Colorado. | Photo courtesy of Rentech.)

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