Monday, March 29, 2010

US military and biofuels

Send the Marines: 17 Steps the US military is taking to advance, use, and advocate for biofuels

What is a US President to do in an era where Congress is stymied, budget deficits have limited the power of the US public purse, and an economic meltdown has limited the power of project finance and private money?
As Tom Lehrer wrote in 1965, "When someone makes a move / Of which we don't approve,_Who is it that always intervenes?/ U.N. and O.A.S. / They have their place, I guess / But first send the Marines!"

Indeed, both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have done so, orchestrating a sweeping revamp of energy strategy at the Department of Defense - where a new generation of leaders cite benefits such as these when they tout the features of biofuels:

1. Saving lives - as many as one in six military casualties occur in the delivery ugh supplies - of which the most dangerous is fuel.

2. Reducing the complexity and length of supply lines. Fuel and waste disposal create a tremendous burden of risk, cost and hassle on the military - trucks, ships, rail and more are utilized in fuel delivery to bases as well as forward areas, and military officials have cited the
cost of fuel delivered to the battlefield as high as $418 per gallon. Bioenergy - which can be grown strategically on or near bases, offers an alternative supply, and reduced dependence on (often) unreliable transportation corridors and partners.

3. Emissions reduction. The Department of Defense is the world's largest single customer of diesel fuels.
4. Independent energy supply. The US military has described its limited capacity to wage extended wars without access to foreign oilfields unless alternative energy sources can be developed and tapped.
Here are 17 steps the US military forces are taking to advance, use and advocate for biofuels:

1. In Maryland,
the Naval Air Systems Command is preparing to test biofuels in an F/A-18 Super Hornet by next summer, according to Aero News. The Navy has issued an RFP for JP-5 jet fuel made from biomass, and has stipulated that it be made from non-food feedstocks, pointing the RFP towards algae, jatropha and camelina.

2. In Washington,
the US Navy and the US Department of Agriculture announced a partnership that will bring USDA science and scientists to the Navy's effort to develop a "sustainable, cost effective energy infrastructure," through development of synthetic fuels and energy efficiencies. According to a report in the Navy Times, the Navy paid $424 per gallon for a batch of algal-based biofuels, for testing purposes, purchased from Solazyme.

3. In Washington,
the US Air Force has ordered a total of 400,000 gallons of renewable biofuels from Sustainable Oils, Cargill and Solazyme for testing as a military aviation fuel. the companies, in turn, will use UOP's processing technology to convert oil from camelina, algae and animal fats into renewable jet fuel.

4. In California,
the U.S. Navy, Biodiesel Industries and Aerojet announced that they have successfully successfully demonstrated their ARIES (Automated Real-time, Remote, Integrated Energy System) project - a highly automated, portable biodiesel production unit that can be controlled from a remote location.

5. In Washington,
the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration (DARPA) said that it is working on converting algae, cellulosic biomass, and yellow grease into biofuels, but warned that it may not be able to use commercial aviation biofuels because of the performance characteristics, such as performance in cold conditions. DARPA said it wanted to develop biofuels for ground vehicles and non-nuclear ships.

6. In Alabama,
the US Navy tested its new 125 foot Bullet airship that will operate on algae fuel supplied by Alabama's Unified Fuels. The surveillance airship, which will operate at a 15000 foot altitude and fly a 1,000 pound payload for up to 48 hours, will be used for border patrol, firefighting, port screening as well as other defense purposes.

7. In Canada,
Medicago announced a contract with the US Army to develop industrial enzymes for biofuels. "The high cost of enzymes is a major hurdle in the production of biofuels using biomass. We believe our manufacturing platform could be suitable for the production of affordable enzymes as plants are uniquely capable of efficient protein expression at high yields and low costs," said Louis Vezina, Medicago's chief scientific officer.

8. In the UK,
QinetiQ has been awarded $2.4 million, three year contract for a PyTEC containerized Pyrolysis Waste Disposal System for the US Army. The self sustaining thermal pyrolysis system will process up to 100kg of Municipal Solid Waste per hour, and reclaims up to 500 kW of the thermal energy from the waste per hour. The system will be fully commissioned by 2012 after field testing.

9. In Michigan,
Alternative Fuel Technologies announced that it will partner with the US Army to test jet fuel (JP-8) in a high pressure (30,000 psi) diesel fuel injection system. The test will utilize the company's proprietary DME fuel, a clean diesel fuel replacement that can be produced from natural gas, landfill methane, coal and biomass.

10 In Washington,
the Defense Energy Support Center and Air Transport Association of America signed a strategic alliance for the development and deployment of alternative aviation fuels. The DESC-ATA alliance brings together shared goals of the Department of Defense and the principle U.S. airlines to advance the development and deployment of commercially viable, environmentally friendly, alternative aviation fuels.

11. In Washington,
the special assistant for energy at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which has been conducting two algal fuels projects, said that "Darpa has achieved the base goal to date. Oil from algae is projected at $2 per gallon, headed towards $1 per gallon."

12. Wesley Clark: "
We suffer the inefficiencies of cartel pricing and oil shocksŠ Then there is the military cost to ensure steady access to foreign oil from parts of the world that are volatile, or outright hostile to Western values and policies. Taxpayers fund the defense of oil shipping routes with an estimated annual cost of more than $50 billion. What does ethanol offer us to solve this dilemma? The domestic production of nearly 6.5 billion gallons of ethanol in the United States in 2007 eliminated the need to import at least 228.2 million barrels of oil for gasoline."

13. In Washington,
the Department of the Navy outlined its biofuels goals. By 2012, the demonstration of its new, fossil-fuel independent Green Strike Group, using hybrid electric-diesel systems, nuclear power, and biofuels powering both fleet and aircraft. By 2016 - put the Group to sail in a demonstration of US military power - independent of the geopolitics of oil - in a show of power reminiscent of 1907's Great White Fleet. The Navy's 2020 goal - across land and sea operations, is to cut fossil fuel usage by half.

14. In Washington,
Deloitte released a new report "Energy Security - America's Best Defense," finding a 175 percent increase in gallons of fuel used per day, per United States soldier during wartime since the Vietnam conflict. The report provides recommendations for consideration by the U.S. Department of Defense for becoming more energy efficient and energy secure. Recommendations include: Common biofuels for aircraft and large horsepower engines; Hybrid/electrical/biofuel - technology for the next generation of ground vehicles (which will also include built-in, multi-use generators as a common feature) must be developed and implemented. A copy of the full report can be obtained here.

15. The New York Times
highlighted the effort at Covanta Energy to use the AlphaKet technology to convert military waste biomass to renewable diesel, using a catalytic depolymerization process.

16. In Washington,
Senator John Kerry wrote in the Huffington Post: "Make no mistake: catastrophic climate change represents a threat to human security, global stability, and - yes - even to American national security." He echoes a report, downloadable, from the Military Advisory Board , that describes climate change as "a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world." The Board recommends that "the Department of Defense should enhance its operational capability by accelerating the adoption of improved business processes and innovative technologies that result in improved U.S. combat power through energy efficiency."

The Air Force, Navy, DARPA and the Defense Department have all been sponsoring projects or looking at algal fuel acquisition. DOD has two projects - one led by General Atomics and the other by SAIC, which have a goal of producing $3 fuel. The Air Force has been at work in the Boeing-led jet fuel certification process. Most recently, the US Navy's Mid Atlantic Coast section said it is looking to put out RFPs for 30-year contracts to produce biomass and/or fuel on Navy property.


Rachel Smolker
Hinesburg, Vermont, U.S.A.
office: (802) 482 2848
mobile: (802) 735-7794
skype: rachel smolker

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Biofuels are a wide range of fuels which are in some way derived from biomass.

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