Everett-based Coast Guard ship testing biofuel

SEATTLE — The buoy tender Henry Blake made its rounds of navigation aids on Puget Sound Thursday powered with fuel partly made from algae.

It fueled up Wednesday at its home port in Everett with a 50-50 blend of diesel and algae oil as the Coast Guard’s first ship to test biofuel, officials said.

The Coast Guard is partnering in the research with the Navy, which plans to demonstrate its “Great Green Fleet” with the Nimitz strike group during the Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, international military exercise beginning June 29 around the Hawaiian Islands.

The 175-foot Henry Blake is a good test vessel for the fuel as its engines rev up to speed from buoy to buoy then idle during maintenance, said Sam Alvord, energy reliability section chief with the Coast Guard’s Office of Energy Management in Washington, D.C.

“We know these fuels are coming,” he said Thursday. “When these are available through the Defense Logistics Agency, we’ll be a consumer of them.”

The Coast Guard test is a full evaluation that will last through the summer, not a brief, isolated batch run.

“What’s unique about the Henry Blake is to fully load the cutter and run it,” he said. “This is the first time the whole ship system has been analyzed.”

Every tank on the cutter was filled with the blend. In addition to the main engine propulsion, biofuel is being used for emergency equipment, backup pumps and a small launch — “everything that runs diesel on this ship is running this fuel.”

In the first day of the Henry Blake’s green voyage there were no problems, Alvord said. The tender, with a crew of 28, maintains more than 200 buoys on shore-based navigation aids in Washington.

The Navy provided the fuel to the Coast Guard as a partner in the research

“They get data and we get data on another diesel engine,” said Richard Leung, fuel engineering manager with Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C.

Another Everett-based ship, the aircraft carrier Nimitz, will play a role in biofuel testing during the RIMPAC 2012, which runs to Aug. 3. It won’t burn biofuel itself, but its aircraft will burn a blend of aviation fuel and biofuel made from the camelina plant, Leung said.

Three of the ships in the Nimitz strike group — the guided-missile cruiser Princeton from San Diego and two destroyers from Pearl Harbor, the Chung-Hoon and Chaffee — will burn the blend of diesel and biofuel made from algae, Leung said.

About 900,000 gallons of biofuels and traditional petroleum-based fuels were loaded on the Military Sea Command oiler Henry J. Kaiser on June 13 at the Defense Fuel Support Point, at Manchester, near Bremerton. It will deliver the fuel to the Great Green Fleet demonstration, the Navy said.

RIMPAC will involve a total of 42 ships, six submarines and more than 200 aircraft from 22 nations. Moviegoers will know RIMPAC from the movie “Battleship.”

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