Can Biofuels Really Make a Nation Safer?
by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest) …“It didn’t take long to figure out,” he (Dan Nolan, a retired US Army Colonel and CEO of Sabot 6) recalled, “how many casualties we were taking in Iraq and Afghanistan via logistical convoys, and that 70 percent of what we driving up those roads was water and fuel.” He pauses. “It comes down to this, how do we get the trucks off the road?”
“The Army and the Air Force, they’re taking a measured approach, certifying equipment, with the Air Force taking the view that they are ready to buy as soon as the cost is competitive.
“But the Navy is more aggressive,” Nolan explains. “They know that unless there is an alternative, they are going to continue to spend $3.5 million per day to keep carrier battle groups in the Straits of Malacca and Hormuz. They feel that they have got to do something to stimulate the commercialization of this hugely important technology.”
…Q. Why is the Navy buying $26 biofuels? A. Well, for the same reason you pay $26 for a cab in DC to travel the same route that DC Metro can take you along for $3.50. It comes down to economies of scale, and being in a hurry.
The Navy has a plan to buy military biofuels, starting in 2016, at a price that is cost-competitive with conventional fuel. Since this is new technology, they know that someone is going to have to build out a commercial scale refinery that can generate the economies of scale, and will need four years for design, permitting, construction and commissioning.
So, in 2012, they need to give that clear buying signal and also demonstrate that the fuels will work in the intended ships and aircraft.
Hence, they purchased 450,000 gallons of military spec biofuels this year, for the purposes of that demonstration.
…Q. What do you mean by military spec fuels? Isn’t this aviation and diesel fuel? A. Ah, not quite. Naval fuel is different, primarily because ships operate at sea, obviously, and when they take on ballast they end up mixing fuels and seawater – which mostly separate, but you can see right away that the sea-based environment calls for a different and unique fuel – in this case, able to tolerate the seawater mixing.
Q. Since biofuels aren’t going to be made at the front lines, fuel convoys are a fact of life. How can biofuels contribute to reducing the tactical risk to troops? A. Good question. For remote forward operations in one-road areas, fuel convoys will continue and will continue to be vulnerable. Biofuels represent primarily a strategic route to reducing risk to troops, rather than tactical. Simply put, reducing conflict that leads to remote ops in the first place.
…Q. Why the heck is the Department of Defense proposing to invest in making biofuels available at commercial scale? Isn’t that something for the Department of Energy? A. The Department of Defense is a unique customer – often having needs in advance of the general market. Accordingly, through the Defense Production Act of 1950, DoD has invested in hundreds of technologies so that they can be made at sufficient scale to meet military needs at affordable prices. READ MORE