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.



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