U.S. Navy successfully tests biofuel powered ship

Navy destroyer using biofuel
Navy destroyer using biofuel
The U.S. Air Force has been grabbing all the biofuel headlines with a string of recent successes in flying their planes on a 50/50 mix of biofuel and JP-8 fuel.  But now it’s the Navy’s turn.   Earlier this month the Navy successfully tested their first biofuel powered ship in a successful 17 hour voyage along the coast of California.

The ship, a decommissioned Spruance class destroyer named the Paul F. Foster, traveled from San Diego to the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Port Hueneme.   The Foster has gas-turbine engines very similar to the engines used in current Navy destroyers and cruisers.    For this test they used a 50/50 blend of biofuel and standard F-76 oil based fuel.  The biofuel came from algae-derived, hydro-processed algal oil from the San Francisco based company, Solazyme.

The test was deemed a total success – with no operational differences found at all.   “The biggest success is that this de-commissioned Navy test ship with engines identical to those in commissioned warships operated successfully on an overnight transit with this biofuel without a glitch,” said Mike Wolfe, the ship’s Underway Project Officer. “There were absolutely no changes in operations during this test – the fuel burned just like the fuel we get from the Navy that we’ve been burning for years. You could not tell the difference.”

Going forward, the Navy wants to continue to test the use of biofuel on other ships.  They’ve set a goal of deploying a “Great Green Fleet” by 2016, which would consist of a complete carrier group powered entirely by alternative fuels, and another goal of reaching 50% overall alternative energy use by 2020.     While the current cost of biofuel is much higher than the price of traditional fuel, the Navy and the Departments of Energy and Agriculture are all investing millions to help fund biofuel development.



2 thoughts on “U.S. Navy successfully tests biofuel powered ship

  1. The Navy has paid $425 a gallon for this algae fuel. The DLA-Fuels contract for $8.5M to Solazyme of San Francisco for 20,000 gallons of algae diesel fuel is on the official Feb Biz Ops web page under solicitation BAA040008. The Navy also bought 1,500 gallons of Solazyme jet fuel for aircraft testing for only $149/gallon under solicitation SP0600-09-R-0704. Solazyme is also simultaneously getting $110M from DOE (Dr. Chu of the Solyndra debacle) for R&D, so the true cost of the fuel is still even higher. The lowest price currently being paid by the US Military for biofuels is $67/gallon, while normal military/commercial fuels (F-76 diesel oil and JP-8/Jet A-1 jet fuel) are less than $3/gallon! These are your tax dollars at work when we are cutting people and equipment to try to balance record budget deficits.

  2. The contract that resulted from this solicitation was an R&D contract, which is a lot different than a bsic contract for 20,000 gallons of readily available fuel. In addition to the fuel itself, the Navy will own the research developed in the performance of the contract. So saying that it’s costing $425 per gallon is disingenuous. Development of any new technology will always cost a huge amount of money. I would also think that the fuel used in a Navy destroyer is different than jet fuel, hence the difference in the cost between the Solazyme jet fuel for aircraft and the cost of this contract.

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