U.S. Navy Launches Biodiesel Initiative

At Naval Base Ventura County, U.S. Navy leaders announced plans to recycle the Navy’s used cooking oil by processing it into cleaner burning biodiesel for use in its diesel vehicles.

Port Hueneme, California – November 11, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] The Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center (NFESC) is partnering with Santa Barbara, California-based Biodiesel Industries, a biodiesel manufacturer and technology provider. Using a modular biodiesel-processing unit, the base will collect its used cooking oil and transform it into biodiesel through a chemical process known as transesterification. “This is the culmination of fours years of working with the US Navy,” said Biodiesel Industries CEO Russell Teall. “Our research and development of the Modular Production Unit has been completed and implemented in our civilian plants in Las Vegas and Australia. Now, with the cooperation of NFESC we hope to continue making improvements so that it can soon be deployed at military installations around the world.” Biodiesel can be made from any fat or vegetable oil, such as soybean oil. It’s nontoxic, biodegradable and works in any diesel engine with few or no modifications. Although biodiesel contains no petroleum, it can be blended with petroleum diesel at any level, the most common blend level being 20 percent biodiesel mixed with 80 percent diesel (B20). “This is a win-win,” said Kurt Buehler, Chemical Engineer at NFESC. “By producing our own biodiesel from used cooking oil, we can eliminate a solid waste disposal problem on bases. In return, our diesel vehicles will burn cleaner, and we’ll be using less foreign oil.” The U.S. Military is one of the largest users of B20, but this is the first attempt to create a self-sustaining plant. If the project is successful, ultimately the Navy could send portable biodiesel processing units overseas to produce its own fuel while on missions abroad. “I think it is significant to note that the Navy is charged with protecting shipping routes to import petroleum to the United States,” said Joe Jobe, executive director of the nonprofit National Biodiesel Board. “I admire the military leaders who have the foresight to use their existing resources to create cleaner burning biodiesel. The Navy is the largest diesel fuel user in the world, and they’re working proactively and creatively to use more renewable fuel. It’s truly groundbreaking.” A Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the Biodiesel Production Plant Validation Program was held at the demonstration site on NBVC in Port Hueneme. The demonstration validation plant’s annual capacity is one million gallons. The base plans on using 20,000 gallons a year. Nearby Channel Islands National Park, which has used biodiesel for several years to help meet its goal of making the islands petroleum-free, will use 20,000 gallons a year. Ventura County will also use 20,000 gallons annually. The U.S. currently imports approximately 60 percent of its oil — of that, 800,000 barrels of oil a day come from Iraq. “If you look at what it costs to send a gallon of diesel overseas, there is a potential to reduce the logistics tail when deploying since we’re already sending vegetable oil overseas anyway to cook for the troops,” Buehler said. “It also gives us energy security for Navy bases. If petroleum gets cut off, we can keep the base running on biodiesel. So in addition to reducing dependence on foreign oil, producing our own biodiesel could provide a tactical advantage in case of crisis.” The U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines all use B20 at different bases and stations throughout the country, including: Camp Lejeune U.S. Marine Corps Base in North Carolina; Air Force Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Fort Leonard Wood Army Base in Missouri. Everett Naval Station, located in the Puget Sound area, has used about 50 thousand gallons of B20 a year since 2001. The switch to biodiesel was virtually seamless, according to Transportation Director Gary Passmore. “Older equipment took a filter change, but newer equipment needed nothing,” Passmore said. “It went so smooth that no one really noticed.”
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