Navy’s Largest Biofuel Test Called Success

Using a remotely controlled ship, the U.S. Navy says it successfully completed its largest-scale demonstration of alternative fuels last week off the coast of California.

The service said its Self Defense Test Ship – the decommissioned Spruance-class destroyer Paul F. Foster, reconfigured to provide an unmanned test platform – made a 17-hour trek from San Diego to the Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme using a 50-50 blend of algae-derived, hydro-processed oil and a standard petroleum fuel.

Navy biofuel test

image via U.S. Navy

The Navy has set a goal of deploying a “Great Green Fleet” powered entirely by alternative fuels by 2016, and of reaching 50 percent alternative energy use overall by 2020. The service recently tested alternative fuel in a yard patrol boat at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and in a landing craft utility off the Virginia coast.

According to the Associated Press, the algal oil used in the Self Defense Test Ship was produced by South San Francisco-based Solazyme, the same company that earlier this month helped United Airlines do the first biofuel-powered commercial airline flight in the United States.

“From our perspective as the ship’s operators, there was absolutely no difference, whatsoever, in the operation or performance of the ship,” said Mike Wolfe, Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme Division underway project officer. “The fuel burned just like the traditional fuel we get from the Navy and have been burning for years. We could not tell the difference. The biggest success is that a Navy ship with engines identical to those in commissioned warships operated successfully on an overnight transit with the alternative fuel without a glitch in anything. Operationally, it was absolutely a success.”

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Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • Cliff Claven

    nnThe Navy hasnpaid $425 a gallon for this algae fuel. The DLA-Fuels contract for $8.5M tonSolazyme of San Francisco for 20,000 gallons of algae diesel fuel is on thenofficial Feb Biz Ops web page under solicitation BAA040008. The Navy alsonbought 1,500 gallons of Solazyme jet fuel for aircraft testing for onlyn$149/gallon under solicitation SP0600-09-R-0704. Solazyme is alsonsimultaneously getting $110M from DOE (Dr. Chu of the Solyndra debacle) fornR&D, so the true cost of the fuel is still even higher. u00a0The lowest price currently being paid by thenUS Military for biofuels is $67/gallon, while normal military/commercial fuelsn(F-76 diesel oil and JP-8/Jet A-1 jet fuel) are less than $3/gallon. These arenyour tax dollars at work when we are cutting people and equipment to try tonbalance record budget deficits.nnn

    • Dav

      Idiot. It ALWAYS cost more initialy to start alternative methods. The price will come down. What do you think the Navy wants to pay 130 times more for fuel than they now do? .