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U.S. Navy Conducts Its Largest Algae Biofuel Test Ever

navy tests algae biofuel on decommissioned destroyerThe U.S. Navy has quietly tested 20,000 gallons of algae biofuel on a decommissioned destroyer, carrying on its mission of transitioning to renewable energy even as the end phase of the fossil fuel era begins to play out. Though oil fields are booming in the western U.S., the Keystone tar sands oil pipeline has stalled and natural gas drilling  is roiling communities in other regions. Fossil fuels will be with us for a long time to come (we still burn wood, right?), but with the Defense Department giving them the cold shoulder they are on their way to marginalization.

A Big Test for Algae Biofuel

The new test involved a decommissioned destroyer reconfigured as a remote-controlled test ship, sailing out of NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center San Diego. The idea was to see if a 50-50 blend of algae biofuel and standard marine petroleum fuel could be used as a drop-in replacement, without the need for any special equipment or procedures. As explained by the Logistics Center’s fuel officer, Cmdr. Frank Kim:

“We use the same types of trucks, hoses and other pierside equipment to transfer the fuel, and no modifications are required either from a fueling perspective or on the shipboard side. It’s going to be pretty amazing to see where these fuels take us in the future.”

A New Green Fleet for the U.S. Navy

The test is part of the Navy’s Green Fleet initiative, which calls for shipping out an entire fleet running on alternative fuels by 2016, with a locally-operating Green Strike Force in the water by 2012.  The fleet will also rely on nuclear energy which may disappoint some clean energy fans, but after all this is the military and the Navy’s main goal is to keep itself at peak fighting capability.

Support Our Troops…With Alternative Energy

Despite the efforts of some Republican legislators to resist integrating the U.S. renewable energy industry into the national defense landscape, the Department of Defense is full-on committed to freeing itself from the logistical and financial constraints of an outdated fuel supply. That’s nothing new or controversial given the U.S. military’s long running tradition of glomming on to cutting edge technology. For that matter, an entire branch of the armed services – the Air Force – was birthed by transformational technology just a few generations ago. Take away the oil-fueled politics and all you have is the Pentagon’s need to stay one jump ahead of the competition.

Image: Navy algae biofuel test, Some rights reserved by Official U.S. Navy Imagery.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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