The US Navy's 'Great Green Fleet' sailing toward SECNAV energy goals during RIMPAC 2012 exercises
The 'Great Green Fleet' demonstration is underway as part of the 2012 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) the world's largest international maritime exercise.
Beginning July 17, 2012, alternative fuels, including nuclear power, will be used in an operational setting, fueling helicopters and jets from the deck of an aircraft carrier, and refueling a cruiser and two destroyers during an underway replenishment. The demonstration will also incorporate prototype energy efficient technologies designed to enhance the combat capability of Navy warships.
The ability to use fuels other than petroleum is critical to the country's energy security. "We can't afford not to do this. First, our dependence on foreign sources of fossil fuel is rife with danger for our nation and it would be irresponsible to continue it. Second, paying for spikes in oil prices means we may have less money to spend on readiness, which includes procurement. We could be using that money for more hardware and more platforms," said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.
The ships and aircraft will be powered by alternative fuel, either nuclear or advanced biofuel blends. The biofuel blends are 50-50 mixtures of biofuel (made from waste cooking oil and algae) and petroleum-based marine diesel or aviation fuel.
To prepare for this demonstration, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) purchased 450,000 gallons of advanced biofuel in November 2011. This fuel was blended with equal amounts of conventional petroleum-based fuel, producing a total of 900,000 gallons of a 50/50 alternative fuel blend.
When the fuel was blended with equal amounts of conventional fuel, the cost of the 50/50 blends amounted to approximately $15 per gallon, less than half the cost of the advanced biofuels purchased in 2009.
The fuel purchased for the Great Green Fleet demonstration is part of the test and qualification program; fuel produced from non-conventional sources for operational use will be purchased only at prices that are competitive with petroleum-based fuel.