Launch of the Great Green Fleet

January 20, 2016 |

GGF-012116-sm$2.05 per gallon for drop-in, non-food advanced biofuels blends. Who would have thought it possible a few years ago.

Well, the Navy for one. Their remarkable vision results in Carrier Strike Group 3 operating in a world where “energy can no longer be used as a weapon against us.”

After 7 years of wrangling, vision, exhaustion, invention, improvisation, and a good helping of plain ol’ hangin’ on, the Great Green Fleet embarked on its first regular operations from Naval Base Coronado in San Diego.

Each of the ships in Carrier Strike Group Three (supporting the USS John C. Stennis) will be deploying numerous “energy conservation measures” and the destroyers, cruisers and support craft will be steaming on renewable fuels blends, on the heels of the Navy’s 77 million gallon renewable fuel purchase from AltAir.

The vision

US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack (left, and US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus (right), whose extraordinary partnership powered this initiative.

US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack (left, and US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus (right), whose extraordinary partnership powered this initiative.

“It makes us more green, but that’s a side benefit,” said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus at a dockside ceremony that included US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and San Diego members of congress Susan Davis and Scott Peters. “The Great Green Fleet represents innovations that make us better warfighters.

As Mabus explained to The Digest, “For example, the USS Makin Island (LHD-8) (a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship) with its hybrid engines, was able to stay at sea 44 days more than previously, and returned with half its fuel. Those investments that were made in imported fuels can now be redeployed into operations, and readiness. That’s important for America.”

“The Navy has always led when it comes to energy, and always will. And always there are the naysayers. When the Navy moved from sail to coal, some people said “why would you trade something free, for something you have to pay for?” And when we shifted from coal to oil, some people said “why would you give up all those reliable coaling stations and go for a relatively untested alternative?” And when we shifted from oil to nuclear, some people said “you’ll never nuclear technology to work at such a small scale, and you’ll never be able to make it safe.” And the naysayers were always wrong.

“We announced in 2009 that we would demonstrate the Great Green Fleet in 2012 and sail in 2016. And when we demonstrated the new fuels in 2012, we bought small quantities of experimental fuels. And we paid $26 per gallon, and some people said “you’ll never make this affordable.”

“So here we are, in 2016, sailing the Great Green Fleet, and we paid $2.05 per gallon for the largest renewable fuel contract ever made. Let me repeat that. $2.05 per gallon. Even in these times of low oil prices, that’s cost-competitive. And that’s 13 times less expensive than just four years ago.”

As Mabus related to the dockside crowd, that’s American innovation. That’s the Navy spirit. That’s the result on a culture change across the entire Navy and Marine Corps that’s providing results in everything we do, that’s making us more conscious of energy, and more open to innovation. And as long as we are in the lead, we will be seen as leaders. And not just posture. The Navy is about presence. And these new fuels ensure that energy can never be used as a weapon against us, and that we can sail anywhere we need to sail in our operations and missions.

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack added that he was highly confident that military renewable fuels would be seen in even higher blends within the next 3-4 years. Vilsack said that it was fitting that Navy fuels would re-invest via renewable fuels in rural communities, which provides 40 percent of the military’s personnel.

“These young men and women that grow up in rural communities, understanding from farming that you have to give back, give back to the land, in order to enjoy its benefits. And they give back to the country which has given them liberty and the freedom to pursue big dreams.”

Top 8 Things You need to to Know about the Great Green Fleet

1. $2.05. That’s the price the Navy paid, per gallon, to renewable fuel producer AltAir, which is producing biofuels and blending with petroleum at its Paramount, California refinery.  By contrast, the Navy paid $4 billion in 2013 for 1.3 billion gallons of fuel, according to Mother Jones. That’s $3.03 per gallon.

2. Drop-in. The fuels are drop-in replacements for fossil fuels, requiring no change in handling, storage, or engines.

3. 77 million gallons today, more later. The Defense Logistics Agency contracted for 77 million gallons. But more may come, as this buy is for the Rocky Mountains to the Eastern Pacific. Extending purchasing to Atalntic and Indian Ocean fleets will expend the numbers — as well as extending purchasing to jet fuels.

4. 10 percent blends today. The Navy requires 10-50 percent renewable fuel blends and will buy from the lowest-cost bidder that meets the fuel spec. The market will decide the specific fuel blends — but we are expecting that as oil prices rise, so will the blend percentages of renewables.

5. Energy security the focus. As Secretary of the Navy Mabus emphasizes, it’s not a green measure, but an efficiency and effectiveness measure designed to save money for operations and readiness, protect the Navy against cost spikes in oil, and prevent the Navy from being sidelined by oil shortages.

6. It’s military F-76 diesel, not available from your local gas station. This is F-76 diesel, a military fuel spec designed around the needs of operating ships at sea. So, it’s not quite conventional diesel, and should not be compared to the market prices for conventional distillates.

7. AltAir, the supplier today. Other bidders may emerge. Fulcrum BioEnergy, Virent., Solazyme and Ensyn are just a handful of companies with capabilities for producing drop-in fuels that can meet military specifications.

8. In combination with other energy conservation measures.  The Great Green Fleet and the Carrier Strike Group is operating based on renewable fuels and also several energy conservation measure. Some examples include:

Shipboard Energy Dashboard: Provides real-time situational awareness of energy demand associated with equipment. This allows the crew to minimize a ship’s energy consumption and increase its efficiency while meeting system performance and reliability requirements.

Stern Flaps: Modifies the flow field under the ship’s hull to reduce drag and turbulence, thereby reducing overall hull resistance and saving fuel.

Short-Cycle Mission and Recovery Tanking (SMART): This in-flight refueling practice provides more efficient use of resources when operationally feasible, which allows a more effective use of resources directed toward training for the high end fight. Specifically, SMART reduces fuel dumping.

Solid State Lighting: Uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to save energy, especially when replacing incandescent fixtures or in colored lighting applications. LEDs also last longer than incandescent or fluorescent fixtures, reducing maintenance.

Thermal Management Control System (TMCS): Uses a centralized control system and smart programmable thermostats to provide appropriate heating and cooling for each compartment throughout a ship, reducing energy waste.

The Digest’s 8-link Great Green Fleet Backstory

2016: Navy to launch Great Green Fleet with 77 million gallon buy of cost-competitive, non-food advanced biofuels blends

2015: Rocky Mountain/West Coast/Offshore fuel buy opens for bids.

2014: Procurement begins: USDA, US Navy unveil Farm to Fleet program: Navy “open for business” as shift to biofuels blends begins

2013: Phase 1 grants towards building capacity: DoD awards $16M towards parity-cost, drop-in, non-food biofuels

2012: The Demonstration that the fuels work: The Navy’s Green Strike Group sails on biofuels blend

2012: Outlining the strategy: The Obama plan for cost-competitive, military biofuels

2010: First big steps towards use at scale:  17 Steps the US military is taking to advance, use, and advocate for biofuels

More Backstory on partners, awards, certification, and buying programs


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