As the U.S. government’s largest supplier of fuel to the Department of Defense and other government agencies, the Defense Logistics Agency is constantly looking for environmentally conscious ways to cut waste, maximize supply chains and build resilient, efficient sources of energy.
Quality Assurance Representative Daniel Muranaka learned the Navy was spending a lot of money to dispose of its used fuel oil, he decided to do something about it – and found a way to not only save up to $1 million per year but actually generate a revenue.
Previously working as a chemist at the Pearl Harbor Fuel Laboratory, Muranaka was familiar with specification testing of FOR.
“By working through the process of retesting and resampling the FOR in preparation for sale, we learn how to manage it to meet the specification requirements,” he said.
Although FOR is routinely purchased by refineries, blended with high-sulfur fuel oil and sold to specialized customers, the FOR at Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii had trace amounts of used oil in it, making it harder to sell, Muranaka said.
“Used oil is a regulated waste, and facilities are not allowed to process used oil or products containing used oil unless they have a permit to do so,” he said.
NAVFAC Hawaii accumulates FOR from Navy vessels’ bilge water, a mixture of water and oil. According to federal regulations, oily bilge water can be contaminated by oil from leakage or maintenance work in machinery spaces. The water portion of the bilge water is treated and discharged, and the remaining oil is tested and sold to refineries for recycling.
Because refineries weren’t purchasing its FOR, NAVFAC Hawaii had been paying a commercial contractor up to $2.50 per gallon to remove and dispose of the 200,000 to 400,000 gallons it collects annually — a cost of up to $1 million each year.
“I became passionate about NAVFAC Hawaii’s FOR when I learned about their difficulty getting their FOR purchased,” Muranaka said. “NAVFAC Hawaii supports the warfighter, but no one was supporting them on this issue.”
Searching for a solution, Muranaka contacted the local refineries, such as Island Energy Services, which are permitted to accept FOR with used oil. He educated the staff about the product and explained why it’s suitable for recycling. He then worked with Luis Beza-Cay, a contracting officer forward deployed to DLA Energy Pacific at Hawaii
, to help negotiate a contract.
After months of working through the process, DLA Energy awarded Island Energy Services the contract Nov. 13 to purchase 185,000 gallons of NAVFAC Hawaii’s FOR at $.02 a gallon. This resulted in a cost avoidance of up to $462,500 for disposal and generated revenue of $3,700.
While the remaining 87,000 gallons of NAVFAC Hawaii’s FOR was deemed not salable, Muranaka said some reuse is better than none at all.
Throughout the process, Muranaka worked to educate NAVFAC Hawaii personnel on proper management and testing of the FOR for future sales.
Muranaka was inspired to take on this project while attending the Emerging Leaders Course at the Pacific Leadership Academy. He was encouraged to develop a plan for a challenging work-related project that would stretch him out of his comfort zone. Although Muranaka encountered obstacles and setbacks during the NAVFAC Hawaii FOR project, the course supplied him the leadership skills to succeed.
Muranaka credits Lisa Simon, the Emerging Leaders Program director, for her encouragement and guidance; Jessica Hiraoka, his Pacific Leadership Academy mentor from the U.S. Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in Hawaii, for broadening his understanding of strategic thinking; and Ralph Wells, his supervisor and the deputy director for DLA Energy Pacific at Hawaii, for helping him prioritize his workload to accomplish the project.
Muranaka’s leadership commended his innovative, thoughtful and collaborative problem-solving.
“Through networking, creative logistics thinking and applying his expertise in supply-chain management, Daniel has not only found a way to more effectively manage used fuel oil but also to save millions of dollars in the long run,” said DLA Energy Pacific at Hawaii Commander Navy Cmdr. Eric Lockett. “His ingenuity and extensive outreach with both the refineries as well as NAVFAC Hawaii personnel strengthens DLA’s reputation for cost-consciousness and ethical business processes.”
Muranaka said seeing the project through has built his confidence as a leader and influencer.
“As a quality assurance representative, I don’t have the opportunity to manage and analyze programs and projects, especially those that transcend agencies with millions of dollars at stake,” he said. “This project allowed me to demonstrate the capability of managing and analyzing projects with significant impacts.”
Pulp to Propulsion
Across the United States and at the other end of the product lifecycle, DLA Energy is investing in woody biomass, commonly known as wood pulp, to produce energy.
“The pursuit of alternative energy is necessary to bring forth a robust and sustained domestic alternative fuels industry that will ease dependence on petroleum,” said Lindsey Hicks, the DLA Energy Readiness Program manager for research and development projects and initiatives.
One of DLA Energy’s funded projects is the Biomass to Bioproducts Pilot Plant at the University of Maine’s Technology Research Center. The plant is working to convert cellulosic material like recycled paper and cardboard into jet fuel.
According to a UMaine news release, the plant is capable of processing up to 1 ton of woody biomass per day into chemicals that can be used to manufacture bioproducts, including biofuels, biochemicals and advanced materials.
Efforts to turn biomass into alternative fuel at UMaine began in 2010 when the DLA Energy Readiness Program awarded the university a three-year contract to complete the development of its fuel conversion technology as a laboratory bench procedure, Hicks said.
Since the conclusion of the process development in 2012, UMaine has been working to expand the process to validate actual fuel production capability.
“In fiscal 2015, they received an award of $4.5 million to initiate the upscaling development and determine viable coproducts to make commercialization more profitable,” Hicks said. “The project was funded as a result of congressional funds set aside by the delegation of Maine for the innovative development of fuels and chemicals from cellulosic [woody] biomass suitable for both military and commercial usage.”
In fiscal 2018, an additional $5.8 million in congressional funding was added. UMaine intends to explore additional upscaling options, develop new strategies for producing finished fuel blends through hydrotreating, and develop additional coproduct revenue streams to improve the economics of fuel production, Hicks said.
While UMaine has had a good start to the use of woody biomass to generate fuel, the certification process is long and complex.
“Although UMaine’s process has been able to produce laboratory-scale amounts of diesel and aviation-grade specification fuel, certifications — particularly for aviation fuel specification acceptance — can take several years,” Hicks said.
While ethanol and biodiesel fuels exist, they aren’t yet compatible with aviation and marine diesel-grade fuels, he said.
“Acceptable alternatives must be certified to ensure that they display the same chemical, physical and operational integrity of their petroleum counterparts,” he said. “Such fuels are commonly referred to as drop-in replacements.”
DLA Energy is helping UMaine reach out to industry and the military to get alternative methods approved, Hicks added.
“To be accepted into commercial automotive diesel fuel specs, there are faster mechanisms that don’t require the rigorous, time-consuming certification efforts necessary for U.S. Navy F-76 marine diesel,” he said.
Although alternative processes are now included in commercial and military fuel specs, DLA Energy has only been able to contract with one supplier providing F-76 fuel containing a 10 to 30 percent biofuel.
“Bulk jet fuel purchases with alternative components have yet to occur,” Hicks said.
As DLA Energy continues to work on renewable energy projects like this one with UMaine, DLA’s R&D efforts stretch across its nine supply chains. They range from using robots to modernize distribution processes and building strategic materials to improving combat rations and making batteries lighter, longer lasting and with higher energy.
Whether investing in new sources or finding new ways to reduce waste and save taxpayer dollars, the people of DLA Energy never stop looking for new ways to build a more secure, sustainable supply for tomorrow’s warfighters.