Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack have announced that the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) signed a contract to purchase 450,000 gallons of advanced drop-in biofuel, the single largest purchase of biofuel in government history.
While the Navy fleet alone uses more than 1.26 billion gallons of fuel each year, this biofuel purchase is significant because it accelerates the development and demonstration of a homegrown fuel source that can reduce America’s and the military’s dependence on foreign oil.
The Defense Department will purchase biofuel made from a blend of non-food waste (used cooking oil) from the Louisiana-based Dynamic Fuels, LLC, a joint-venture of Tyson Foods, Inc., and Syntroleum Corporation, and algae, produced by Solazyme. The fuel will be used in the Navy’s demonstration of a Green Strike Group in the summer of 2012 during the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), the world’s largest international maritime exercise.
As part of his energy security goals, outlined in March 2011 in the “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future,” President Obama directed the Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Navy to work together to advance a domestic industry capable of producing “drop-in” biofuel substitutes for diesel and jet fuel.
Responding to that challenge, in August 2011, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Energy and Navy announced an intention to invest up to $510 million during the next three years in partnership with the private sector to produce advanced drop-in biofuel to power military and commercial transportation.
While that investment awaits Congressional action, the annou-ncement uses the existing authority by leveraging Defense Depart-ment procurement activities to support this energy security goal.
“The Navy has always led the nation in transforming the way we use energy, not because it is popular, but be-cause it makes us better war fighters,” says Secretary Mabus. “This unprecedented fuel purchase demonstrates the Obama Administration’s commitment to seeking energy security and energy independence by diversifying our energy supply.”
Vilsack echoed those comments.
“In March, the President challenged me, Secretary Mabus and Secretary Steven Chu to work with the private sector to cultivate a competitively priced – and domestically produced – drop-in biofuel industry that can power not just fighter jets, but also trucks and commercial airliners,” says Vilsack.
The biofuel will be mixed with aviation gas or marine diesel fuel for use in the Green Strike Group demonstration. It is a drop-in fuel, which means that no modifications to the engines are required to burn the fuel.
In preparation for this demonstration, the Navy recently completed testing of all aircraft, including F/A-18 and all six blue Angels and the V-22 Osprey, and has successfully tested the RCB-X (Riverine Command Boat) and training patrol craft.
USDA contributed to this article.