USS Ford successfully sails on biofuel blend

  • SCBJ staff
  • Wednesday, March 14, 2012 1:50pm

The Everett-based Navy guided-missile frigate USS Ford (FFG 54) successfully sailed from the ship’s homeport to San Diego on March 2, using 25,000 gallons of a 50-50 algae-derived, hydro-processed algal oil and petroleum blend in the ship’s gas turbines.

Naval Sea Systems Command said USS Ford’s transit on the algal blend marks the first demonstration of the alternative fuel blend in an operational fleet ship.

“We’ve done basically every range of research vessel we could test: the experimental riverine command boat, the Naval Academy’s yard patrol, a landing craft utility, a landing craft air cushion amphibious and self-defense test ship,” said Richard Leung, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Navy Fuels engineering manager. “Each test has brought us a little closer to the upcoming Green Strike Group demonstration set for later this year.”

Meeting the secretary of the Navy’s call for a drop-in fuel replacement, no changes were required to the infrastructure of the ship or fueling pier for the test. The blended fuel was stationed on a barge in Puget Sound off Bremerton and immediately available to the Ford for testing.

“We didn’t embark any personnel or instrumentation for the transit because we wanted to minimize impact to the ship’s normal operations and because we weren’t conducting the same quantitative tests and analysis we’ve done previously,” said Leung. “Instead, we provided the ship’s engineers a list of fuel and engine performance system questions and parameters, so they could provide feedback on how the ship performed using the blend as compared to its typical fuel.”

The ship burned all 25,000 gallons of biofuel during the transit, and according to Leung, feedback from the ship’s engineers was favorable.

“The crew reported no change in their typical procedures when receiving, handling or processing the biofuel, and said operational performance of the fuel system and gas turbine engines on the blend was almost identical to operations on traditional F-76 (petroleum),” said Leung.

“Having feedback from the Ford’s engineers is extremely useful as we move forward with validating the algal oil blend, and as we prepare for the upcoming Green Strike Group demonstration later this year,” said Greg Toms, NAVSEA technical warrant holder for fuels and lubricants.

Naval Sea Systems Command said its alternative fuels efforts help the Navy increase energy security, safeguard the environment and support the secretary of the Navy’s goals to demonstrate a green strike group by 2012, deploy the “Great Green Fleet” in 2016 and obtain 50 percent of the fleet’s liquid fuel from alternative sources by 2020.