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The Navy's new Riverine Command Boat (RCB-X)  (Source: NAVY.mil)
Navy hopes to cut its fossil fuel consumption in half by 2020

It seems these days that many people/organizations are trying to go green. We have companies like Dell installing solar panels in parking lotsnumerous auto manufacturers are selling/developing full-electric and gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles; and even homeowners look to reduce costs by using fluorescent lighting and eco-friendly building materials.

Not to be left out, the U.S. Navy is showing its "green" side with a new 49-foot Riverine Command Boat (RCB-X). The boat is powered by a 50/50 mix of NATO F-76 fuel and algae-based biofuel.

Although there is no talk about an increase (or penalty) in fuel efficiency by using the the fuel, it appears to be more of a policy decision with regards to stepping up the use of alternative fuels in the Navy's fleet.

"Going green is about combat capability and assuring Navy's mobility," said Rear Adm. Philip Cullom, director of the Chief of Naval Operations Energy and Environmental Readiness Division. "It is not just about natural security; it also strengthens national security. By having reliable and abundant alternate sources of energy, we will no longer be held hostage by any one source of energy, such as petroleum.”

As with all new and experimental technology, the price to use such fuel in this prototype vehicle is astronomical. And when we say astronomical, we mean it -- the Marine Corps Times reports that the Navy bought 20,055 gallons of algae-based biodiesel at a jaw-dropping cost of $424 per gallon.

According to Wired, the Navy uses 80,000 barrels of oil per day to fuel its ships and wishes to cut that number in half within a decade through the use of biofuels and nuclear power.

"First and foremost, energy conservation extends tactical range of our forces while also preserving precious resources," Cullom added. "Our goal, as a Navy, is to be an 'early adopter' of new technologies that enhance national security in an environmentally sustainable way."



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your cave is calling you
By undummy on 10/28/2010 4:53:08 PM , Rating: 3
At this rate of economic ignorance and degradation, we'll all be living in caves and eating what we can scrounge for.

$424 per gallon is a hell of a subsidy for a company. Who owns it? What politician has interest in it?

Bio-diesel can be made for $5 a gallon. Not sure what moron, in gov't purchasing, signed up for this $424/gallon fuel, but he/she/it should be fired. First ethanol over butanol, and now algae fuel over bio-diesel.

Whatever happened to thermal depolymerization? A little odor closed down something that actually had potential.

Don't forget to vote.




RE: your cave is calling you
By Ammohunt on 10/28/2010 6:00:54 PM , Rating: 2
Some of us already are....


RE: your cave is calling you
By wiz220 on 10/28/2010 6:02:13 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think you get it. This is almost certainly a small scale pilot program where costs are always higher than a mass production situation. I think the first poster had it right, the navy is banking on the fact that prices will come down over time, but right now as a feasibility study you're going to have to pay more. It's not like they said that they are converting all vessels right now and will pay $424 per gallon in perpetuity.

I applaud the armed forces for trying to be prepared for the day when oil is no longer abundant and cheap.


RE: your cave is calling you
By undummy on 10/28/2010 7:19:30 PM , Rating: 1
I do get it.

I doubt that economics of scale, when considering gov't purchases, will really make a difference.

They didn't buy 50, 500, or 1000 gallons. They bought 20k gallons. That for a fluid is volume. And from Navy Times:

Getting biofuel production on pace with petroleum also will be a major challenge. Skeptics wonder whether there’s enough arable land in the U.S. to grow the grasses and other plants needed to produce industrial levels of biofuels — and, moreover, what effect a glut of energy agriculture would have on the price of food.

Time to buy up as many grain futures and land as possible. I foresee some shortages.


RE: your cave is calling you
By hallmarkt on 10/28/2010 10:59:22 PM , Rating: 2
Ugh. I know nothing in this area. But I am comfortable saying that 20,000 gallons is not high volume production for a new type of liquid fuel. Remember, gallons, not barrels. This is not high volume.

As other poster have stated, this line item probably included R&D and construction costs for an algal fuel plant. I repeat, the Navy's purchase of 20,000 gallons was not a large purchase.

If you still don't believe me, then for visualization, an Olympic-size swimming pool holds approximately 600,000 gallons of water.


RE: your cave is calling you
By JediJeb on 10/29/2010 2:43:26 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Getting biofuel production on pace with petroleum also will be a major challenge. Skeptics wonder whether there’s enough arable land in the U.S. to grow the grasses and other plants needed to produce industrial levels of biofuels — and, moreover, what effect a glut of energy agriculture would have on the price of food.


Right now the government is paying farmers to not grow crops and leave millions of acres of farm land idle just to prevent a glut of food crops from bottoming out the price of food and bankrupting farmers. So there is plenty of land to start growing biofuel crops on. Also for algae you don't need good crop growing land, you can grow it anywhere you can get water, which can be either fresh or salt water depending on the type of algae. The best places are right next to power plants so you can use the waste CO2 from the powerplant(coal oil or natural gas) to feed the algae.


RE: your cave is calling you
By Firebat5 on 11/1/2010 10:32:02 PM , Rating: 2
"Right now the government is paying farmers to not grow crops and leave millions of acres of farm land idle just to prevent a glut of food crops from bottoming out the price of food and bankrupting farmers."

As an active farmer, I can tell you in my experience that this is not true. Years ago the federal dollars given to farmers did do this. However, currently, the federal "safety net" has switched focus to emphasize crop insurance subsidization. Don't get me wrong I HATE the idea of federal monies flowing to farmers, but currently, by and large, the government does not pay farmers to not raise crops (assuming no fraud).

"So there is plenty of land to start growing biofuel crops on."

My observation, is that all "crop growing land" is already employed in the raising food-- either crops or protein (read beef). In recent years, many poorer crop acres have been converted from beef production to crop production. There are several factors involved involved in this including higher commodity prices(read biofuels), better farming practices, and depressed protein prices.

I can also tell you that, in our area at least, biofuels compete directly with food for acres (read higher food prices). Simply put, biofuels have raised demand for our products, and the market has responded by transfering acres from food (including proteins, in a roundabout way) to biofuels.

regards


RE: your cave is calling you
By RivuxGamma on 10/28/2010 8:12:05 PM , Rating: 2
The algae fuel is bio-diesel. Algae is one of the most dense sources of oil that can be used for biofuels. The problem is that you can't just plant it. You have to have growing vats, lighting, etc. to actually grow it and the technology just hasn't developed to a point where it's economical yet.

So it's sort of like they bought a bunch of experimental fuel.


RE: your cave is calling you
By drinkmorejava on 10/28/2010 10:14:59 PM , Rating: 2
I can guarantee you that they had to stand up a plant for the order...which would justify the cost.

The Air Force had to do that with it's SPK fuel tests, although they had to buy considerably more fuel, resulting in <25% of the cost per gallon. A large turbofan will happily burn 10k lbs of fuel per hour.

HRJ fuel has been significantly cheaper because there are already commercial manufacturers, but it's still a few X more than regular gas or JP-8.

There are a number of facilities that can give you a few gallons of whatever you want for analysis, but that wont get you far in testing.


RE: your cave is calling you
By MrBungle123 on 10/29/2010 12:38:42 PM , Rating: 2
If you read between the lines I think the explanation for this can be found here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqHL404zhcU&feature...


RE: your cave is calling you
By Solandri on 10/30/2010 3:36:00 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
At this rate of economic ignorance and degradation, we'll all be living in caves and eating what we can scrounge for.

$424 per gallon is a hell of a subsidy for a company. Who owns it? What politician has interest in it?

Bio-diesel can be made for $5 a gallon. Not sure what moron, in gov't purchasing, signed up for this $424/gallon fuel, but he/she/it should be fired. First ethanol over butanol, and now algae fuel over bio-diesel.

Military spending is always a favorite place for the government to try out off-the wall ideas. Back during the cold war, the military was where the government investigated ESP just in case there really was something to it. It's where the government tests out stuff to see how much of what's being said in the private sector is hype, and how much of it has some basis in reality.

If you google for biodiesel (and algae-based diesel in particular), you'll run into all sorts of people claiming all sorts of things about how you can make it and how cost-effective it is or can be. This project is probably just the government's way to sort out the hype from the reality.

Also, don't be so quick to dismiss how well this can scale. A large portion of the stuff we take for granted today had its initial R&D costs absorbed via military projects. Nuclear power, nearly everything about aircraft, most manufacturing technologies, LCD panels (who do you think was buying them back when they cost >$10k for a 5" display?), radar, microwave ovens, computers, encryption, etc.

Back when the Internet started, it probably cost on the order of $1 per KB of data transmitted, when you could load a bunch of tapes into a station wagon and drive it to the destination for pennies per MB. If we had stopped ARPAnet cold back then because it was much cheaper to improve station wagon tape transport technology, where would we be today? True, not everything is guaranteed to be that successful. But we won't know until we try, right?


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