[U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gregory N. Juday/Released]
Last week, the U.S. Navy showed off the power and maneaverability of its 49-foot experimental Riverine Command Boat (RCB-X) in Norfolk, VA. But what’s unique about the RCB-X is not only what you can see from the outside, but by what, at least in part, powers it; algae.
That’s right. The experimental RCB-X is powered by a half part diesel, and half part algae based fuel. U.S. Navy tells us:
The fuel, a “drop in replacement” to standard shipboard fuel, is 50 percent algae-based and 50 percent NATO F-76 fuel, which forms a 50/50 blend of hydro-processed renewable diesel, also known in industry as “HR-D.”
Additionally, HR-D, as opposed to biofuel, does not include water which is incompatible for shipboard fuel systems and does not have the limited serviceable life (typically six months) of biofuels. A blended hydro-processed renewable diesel fuel ensures that the integrity of the fuel system is maintained. Read More
The demonstration supports the Navy’s efforts to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, culminating in 2012 with a Green Strike Group operating locally. By 2016, the Navy plans on deploying a Great Green Fleet powered entirely by alternative fuels.
While it’s easy to see the environmental benefits of seeking alternative energy sources, going green does not come cheap. Wired Magazine’s Danger Room blog reports:
The Navy’s got a head-start on other fuel-thirsty military departments, but they’re still figuring out how to make alternative fuels affordable. Last year, the Navy spent $424 per gallon to buy 20,055 gallons of algae-based biofuel — a world record price for fuel, the Marine Corps Times is reporting.
“Yes, these fuels are expensive,” Cullom says. “When you’re leading the way on something, it’s not gonna be $3 bucks a gallon.”
Cullom is confident that increased demand for eco-friendly fuels, largely spurred by massive military needs, will quickly curb costs. Already, the Navy is paying less than $100 for each gallon of the algae-based fuel that cost four times as much only a year ago. Read More