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News | Aug. 5, 2016

Biofuel propels Rim of the Pacific exercise

By Irene Smith

Biofuel made from waste beef fat propelled ships and aircraft during the biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise around the Hawaiian Islands June 30 through Aug. 4.

Defense Logistics Agency Energy personnel procured 77.6 million gallons of the alternative fuel blend in January. The fuel was purchased at a cost-competitive price of $2.05 per gallon through a partnership between the Department of the Navy and U.S. Department of Agriculture aimed at making alternative fuel blends a regular part of the military's bulk operational fuel supply.

“The total solicited requirements included 142,000,000 U.S. gallons of F76 [marine naval fuel] and 139,110,000 U.S. gallons of JP5 [jet fuel,]” said DLA Energy Supplier Operations Deputy Acquisition Kevin Ahern. “The total awarded quantity of 142,000,000 of F-76 includes 77,660,000 gallons containing a 10 percent blend of biofuel made through the [hydro processed esters and fatty acids] process.”

Drop-in fuels meet the same product specification of the petroleum products they replace, Ahern said. As such, they can be stored, transported, and used without any changes to engines or infrastructure.

In preparation for the exercise, DLA Energy employees participated in planning workshops in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and San Diego to ensure optimal fuel support.

“In May, approximately 11 million U.S. gallons of biofuel was delivered to Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam defense Fuel Supply Point Pearl Harbor from the Military Sealift Command Petroleum Tanker, MV Empire State,” said Fuel Operations Program Manager Bill Nejdl. “The fuel was stored in the Red Hill upper fuel farm storage tanks in preparation for RIMPAC 2016.”

The countries participating in the exercise used about 11 million gallons of the 10 percent alternative fuel blend during the exercise. The Navy is pursuing the use of alternative fuels in the supply chain to increase its operational flexibility by allowing forces to obtain fuel from more sources worldwide.
The biennial naval exercise has grown in both participants and the Great Green Fleet Initiative.
“During the [previous iteration,] there were 22 nations participating with six nations observing,” Nejdl said. “This year’s exercise has 26 nations participating with three nations observing.”
 Almost all of the participating nations have agreed to use the biofuel during the exercise. Only a small number of countries requested their biofuel upon conclusion of the exercise to return home for further testing and evaluation of the project in the Naval ships.”
 The U.S. Navy in concert with the Military Sealift Command provided biofuel to nearly all of the participating nations’ vessels with only a select few not using it in their ships and ancillary systems.

For aircraft, it is a different situation.

“There are many aircraft from a great majority of the countries here but they are not using the biofuel for aircraft as it is not designed for jet turbine engines,” Nejdl said. “They are using the aviation fuel from the three U.S. aircraft carriers operating in RIMPAC.”

The alternative fuel was delivered to the underway ships by the Military Sealift Command’s three fleet replenishment oilers, known as floating gas stations for ships, through Replenishment at Sea, topping off the ships’ bunkers to alleviate return trips to Pearl Harbor for fuel.

“A Consolidated Cargo was conducted between the MV Empire State transferring approximately 14 million gallons that supplies cargo fuel to fleet oilers at sea and the USNS Rainier; a fleet class oiler that can carry approximately 4.5 million gallons of fuel July 17,” Nejdl said.

The advanced fuel blend was produced from a feedstock of beef tallow - waste beef fat - provided by Midwest farmers and ranchers, and traditional petroleum. Pursuant to Navy requirements, the alternative fuel is drop-in, meaning it requires no changes to ship engines, transport or delivery equipment, or operational procedures.

“DLA Energy is proud to support the Navy's Great Green Fleet through the solicitation of drop-in replacement biofuels,” said DLA Energy Director for Supplier Operations Gabby Earhardt. “Our success in awarding the first contract to include operational quantities of bio blended F76 is attributed to a strong partnership between the Navy and DLA Energy.”