US Navy deploys carrier strike group powered by alternative fuels

By Katie Fletcher | January 19, 2016

On Jan. 20, the U.S. Department of the Navy will host a kickoff event, launching the first vessels of its Great Green Fleet at the San Diego Naval Air Station North Island, Carrier Pier. The GGF centerpiece is a carrier strike group—including an aircraft carrier and Arleigh Burke-class destroyer—deploying using energy conservation technologies, operating procedures and alternative energy in the course of its regular scheduled deployment in 2016. During the event, Navy and Marine Corps energy displays will also be presented on the pier.

“On the shore, the displays will showcase some of our energy technologies,” said Lt. Chika Onyekanne, spokesperson with the Navy Office of Information. “It gives the opportunity for those present to see some of those things, talk to subject matter experts about energy and what it means for us.”

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus will be joined by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to speak at the event and answer questions.

“The GGF is a year-long initiative showcasing the ways Navy and Marine Corps platforms, installations and expeditionary units are transforming their energy use to become better warfighters,” Onyekanne said. He added that the purpose of the fleet is to demonstrate how energy efficient systems and procedures and the use of alternative energy—fuel, solar, etc.—in their ships, aircrafts and other installations can contribute to mission and combat capability, resiliency and flexibility. Onyekanne said the fuel is being provided by California-based AltAir Fuels.

Prior to this deployment in 2016, one of the Navy’s interim goals was to conduct a demonstration during the 2012 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, the world’s largest international maritime exercise. 

The ships and aircraft in the GGF demonstration were powered by alternative fuel, either nuclear or advanced biofuel blends. The biofuel blends were 50-50 mixtures of biofuel—made from used cooking oil and algae—and petroleum-based marine diesel or aviation fuel. In 2011, approximately 450,000 gallons of biofuel were purchased for the demonstration. Navy surface ships were fueled with 350,000 gallons of hydroprocessed renewable diesel (HRD-76) blended with an equal amount of marine diesel (F-76), and Navy aircraft burned 100,000 gallons of hydroprocessed renewable jet fuel (HRJ-5) blended with aviation fuel (JP-5).

Onyekanne said although there are similarities between the 2012 exercise and this event in 2016, they have moved beyond demonstration and have purchased fuel to use in their ships on the West Coast. “Now, we are actually deploying it for our normal operations,” Onyekanne said. “This is just a regularly scheduled deployment for the carrier strike group. It will be highlighted, however, because of its alternative fuel and energy efficiency technologies. Operating procedures are to be more energy efficient as well.”

During the 2012 GGF demonstration, maritime efficiency measures were implemented, including solid-state lighting, shipboard energy dashboard, stern slaps, thermal management control system, and bow bulb to reduce fuel consumption by modifying the shape of the bow to reduce hull wave drag.

This news follows the U.S. Government Accountability Office publishing a report in July observing U.S. Department of Defense investments in alternative fuels. The Navy has a goal of deriving 50 percent of total DOD energy consumption from alternative sources by 2020. According to Navy estimates, to meet this goal, it would annually require using about 336 million gallons of alternative fuel, both naval distillate and jet fuels, by 2020.

At the time of the GAO report, the DOD purchased small quantities of alternative fuels for research, development and demonstration purposes, but had not purchased large quantities for military operations. From fiscal years 2007 through 2014, the military departments have purchased about 2 million gallons of alternative fuels and naval distillate fuels at a premium price to conduct the department’s testing, approving and demonstration activities at a total cost of about $58.6 million—adjusted for inflation to fiscal year 2015 dollars using the gross domestic product (GDP) price index. About 450,000 of those gallons were for the Navy’s GGF demonstration, as stated earlier. These alternative fuel gallons are greatly overshadowed by the approximately 32 billion gallons of jet and naval distillate conventional petroleum fuel purchased over the same period at a total cost of about $107.2 billion—adjusted for inflation to fiscal year 2015 dollars using the GDP price index.

The goal of deploying the GGF in 2016 was set in 2009 when Secretary of the Navy Mabus announced five aggressive energy goals to reduce the Department of Navy’s consumption of energy, decrease its reliance on foreign sources of oil and significantly increase its use of alternative energy. The GGF is one of the five goals, and the Navy is on track to meet it with its first deployment this week.  

 

 
 
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