Come, and They Will Build It

Lockheed Martin's army of engineers has expanded its expertise to bioenergy and biofuels.
By Anna Simet | November 24, 2013

Over 100 years ago, Glenn L. Martin founded the Glenn L. Martin Co. in Los Angeles and built his first plane in a rented church, with encouragement from Orville Wright. Just 100 miles away  a few months later, Allan and Malcolm Lockheed founded the Alco Hydro-Aeroplane Co., later known as Lockheed Aircraft Co., and set up shop out of a garage. There, they constructed speed and distance record-breaking seaplanes, and 20 years later would supply the aircraft Amelia Earhart flew solo across the Atlantic. 

It wasn’t until 1995 that the two companies joined forces becoming Lockheed Martin, resulting in the largest aerospace, defense and technology companies in the world, today employing 116,000 people.

From F-16 multirole fighter aircrafts and high-mobility artillery rocket systems to multimission combat ships and defense satellite communications systems, the top contractor for the U.S. government has a dominant and continually expanding role in national security. Right alongside Lockheed Martin’s extensive list of established technologies are those now emerging, and bioenergy has made the cut as a strong area of focus.

Building Out  Bioenergy 

Paul Klammer,  program director for the bioenergy department at Lockheed Martin, says the company officially developed its program about seven years ago, which stemmed from the idea of utilizing biomass to power one of its own facilities. Heating the company’s 1.8 million-square-foot location in Owego, N.Y., with waste wood saves the company about $1 million in fuel costs annually. “That was the start of it,” Klammer says. “We knew we could take what we do really well at Lockheed, which is delivering technology projects, and apply our core skill sets to this area. It really aligned well with our corporate strategies focused on security, as energy is clearly a security issue.”

And of course, biomass’s base load quality offers such desired security, and that’s something the U.S. Department of Defense, one of Lockheed’s most common customers, likes. “Federal customers like the DOD are very concerned with energy security for a 24/7 basis, and bioenergy fits that mold quite well, whether it’s a wood chips or a different feedstock like municipal solid waste,” says Gary Bennett, business development manager for bioenergy.

Besides its own facility, some of Lockheed’s projects on file include a share of a $15 million contract to install a wood-fired cogeneration system at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Canandaigua, N.Y., and building a portable prototype system that converts garbage into fuel for the Defense Logistics Agency.  

Most recently, the company won an R&D contract from the Army to perform research in the area of producing a higher-quality syngas, and has also teamed up with Concord Blue USA Inc. , as a manufacturing and EPC partner, to deploy a waste gasification technology that converts waste products to electricity, heat and synthetic fuels. The partnership will aim to expand deployment of Concord Blue’s patented, closed-loop steam thermolysis technology globally, including in North American and the U.S. “It’s really a good partnership from that perspective,” says Klammer. “[Concord Blue] needed a global commercialization partner, somebody who had the reputation for delivering on technology projects, so it was a really natural fit from that perspective. They brought the core technology to the table, and we brought all of the integration and business development skills to help them scale and deploy on a global scale.”

Additionally, Lockheed Martin is working with multiple teams on some Army initiatives through the recently awarded Multiple Award Task Order Contract.

Long term, Klammer says its likely Lockheed Martin will explore biofuel technology opportunities, especially since the U.S. government is the largest user of fuel in the world.

Referring to customer feedback as a cornerstone of Lockheed Martin’s business model, Klammer says the innovation the company has been able to put forth wouldn’t be possible without its massive engineering base. “One of the best values we bring to customers is our engineering expertise—we have over 75,000 in the corporation,” he says. “We may experience a particular problem that requires an expert in a specific technology area, and we can go inside the corporation and find that person whose work revolves around that one area. We constantly have problems that require subject matter expertise, and we have that necessary engineering breadth and depth within in our company.” 

Author: Anna Siimet
Editor, Biomass Magazine