Navy to increase purchase of advanced aviation, marine biofuel

By Bryan Sims | December 05, 2011

The commercilaization of advanced biojet and marine fuels into the U.S. military infrastructure took a major step forward on Dec. 5 as the Defense Logistics Agency signed a contract to purchase 450,000 gallons of advanced drop-in advanced biofuels for the U.S. Navy from Dynamic Fuels LLC, a joint venture between Tyson Foods Inc. and Syntroleum Corp. San Francisco, Calif.-based Solayzme Inc. will help Dynamic Fuels fulfill the contract, which the Navy and the USDA report is the single largest purchase of biofuel in government history.

Specifically, the contract involves supplying the Navy with 100,000 gallons of jet fuel (hydrotreated reneawable JP-5 or HRJ-5) and 350,000 gallons of marine distillate fuel (hydrotreated renewable F-76 or HRD-76).  The drop-in biofuel used will be mixed with aviation gas or marine diesel fuel for use in the Navy’s demonstration of a "Green Strike Group”slated to take place in the summer of 2012 during the world’s largest international maritime exercise, the Rim of the Pacific Exercise. 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), training patrol craft, Self Defense test Ship and conducted full-scale gas turbine engine testing.

The fuel for the Navy will be produced at Dynamic Fuels’ 75 MMgy renewable diesel facility located in Geismar, La., using yellow grease and used cooking oil, as well as algal oil supplied by Solazyme as feedstocks. The fuel will be delivered to the Navy in May 2012. Dynamic Fuels’s production plant in Louisiana, which has been in operation for more than a year, is capable of converting nonfood-based feedstocks such as algal oil, animal fats and waste greases into renewable diesel, a hydrogenated and biobased alternative to fossil-based distillate fuels.

The Navy contract follows on the heels of both companies’ involvement in historic commercial airline flights powered by their respective advanced biofuels. This includes Dynamic Fuels’ renewable jet fuel work with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Finnair, Thomson Airways and Alaska Airlines, and Solazyme’s recent flight and partnership with United Airlines, which includes a letter of intent to supply 20 million gallons starting in 2014.

“This award clearly demonstrates that we’re building momentum for the sale and use of our renewable fuels,” said Jeff Bigger, director of the Dynamic Fuels management committee. “We’ve previously provided the U.S. military with fuel for testing. We believe this contract confirms they recognize the performance and environmental advantages of our fuel since they’re coming back for more and are asking for a much larger volume.”

According to the Navy and USDA, DLA will pay half the price for the Green Strike Group biofuel than it paid for biofuel for testing in 2009, adding that increased demand is expected to continue toward the use of more cost-effective drop-in advanced biofuels.

“This is a historic contract and we are proud to be teaming up with Dynamic Fuels to produce and deliver the advanced biofuel to the U.S. Navy to sail the Great Green Fleet,” said Jonathan Wolfson, CEO of Solayzme. “Dynamic Fuels has been a leader in next generation advanced biofuels technology and this partnership further solidifies the progress that both of our companies are making in bringing advanced renewable fuels to commercialization. Solazyme is honored to be working with the U.S. Navy and DLA-Energy in driving forward the Navy’s effort under Secretary Ray Mabus to source 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.”

As part of the his energy security goals, outlined in March in the “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future”, President Barrack Obama directed the USDA and U.S. Navy to work together to advance a domestic industry capable of producing drop-in advanced biofuel alternatives for fossil-based diesel and jet fuel. In August, both responded to the challenge when Secretary of the Navy Mabus and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack 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 Dynamic Fuels and Solayzme’s fuel supply contract uses the existing authority—leveraging Defense Department procurement—to support this energy security goal.

“Get ready America because the gallons are on the way as we’re about to make history by leading the world in delivering renewable replacement fuels,” commented Michael McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, in a statement. “Today’s announcement should effectively silence our fossil fuel detractors as we have yet more proof that advanced biofuels are real and real enough to help better prepare and strengthen America’s armed forces.”

McAdams added, “The moment demands leadership from Washington, it is not time to shy away and remove the public policy instruments that can help drive our nation to the day that Americans pull up to their neighborhood gas stations and fill up with advanced or cellulosic replacement fuels. We’re already starting to see advanced biofuels delivering on its promise of creating new jobs, and providing economic and energy security for our nation and today’s order will help boost that progress.”