SEATTLE — The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Henry Blake refueled, using a 50/50 blend of petroleum F-76 and hydroprocessed renewable diesel derived from algal oil, in Everett, Wash., Wednesday, becoming the first Coast Guard cutter to use as the renewable diesel as part of an operational evaluation.
Successful evaluation of this fuel mixture, known as 50/50 F76/HRD76, can help guide the development of alternative fuels in America, reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.
Developed through a partnership with the U.S. Navy, the Coast Guard Office of Energy Management was provided with 50/50 F76/HRD76 to examine the “drop in” operational feasibility of the renewable diesel in Coast Guard cutters. The Navy and Coast Guard effort identified the Henry Blake (WLM 563) as a prime candidate due to availability of the 50/50 F76/HRD76 fuel at the cutter’s existing fuel supply depot, the capacity and burn rates of the cutter within the operational area, the make and model of engines aboard the cutter, and the limited impact to cutter crew and schedule.
As the inaugural cutter to take delivery of this advanced biofuel, its maiden “green” voyage will mark a significant achievement for the both military services’ progress toward energy security and sustainable fleets.
“The fact is that the Defense Logistics Agency pipeline will increasingly contain biofuels as these fuels become commercially available and cost competitive with petroleum. This is an opportunity for the cutter operators and engineers to gradually absorb this fundamental change eyes-wide-open with respect to all aspects of the cutter’s fuel storage, distribution, purification systems, propulsion engines, electric generators and small boat.” remarks Sam Alvord, Fuel Section Chief, Coast Guard Office of Energy Management.
Unlike other biofuels, such as Fatty Acid Methyl Esters, 50/50 F76/HRD76 is a refinery grade product that is chemically and physically aligned with the F-76 diesel fuel currently consumed by Henry Blake. Over the past five years, this fuel has satisfactorily been tested in numerous types of engines and equipment, including emergency damage control equipment and various small boats. It meets the current F-76 Military Specification standards and doesn’t exhibit the detrimental characteristics of the FAME-based biodiesel fuels.
The 175-foot, Everett-based cutter and its crew of 28 serve to ensure the environmentally-sensitive waterways of Puget Sound and San Juan Island area are safe by maintaining 233 aids to navigation, and performing search-and-rescue, maritime law enforcement and marine environmental protection activities. During its trial transit, the Henry Blake will perform routine operations while closely monitoring efficacy and reliability of the 50/50 F76/HRD76 fuel.
The trial is expected to last multiple months that will include dockside availability. Lessons learned from the trial will spearhead additional efforts to examine alternative fuel implementation for the Coast Guard cutter fleet.
“The big story to tell at the conclusion of this evaluation will be that plenty of Surfaces Forces Logistics Center product line personnel, engineers and program managers, and the Henry Blake crew will show that the ship consumed this fuel in the same way, during the same operations, using the same equipment, following the same processes, with nothing significant to note in anything,” said Alvord.
The operational trial is the latest endeavor to complement a portfolio of enduring Coast Guard energy security and conservation initiatives that include vessel energy efficiency measures, examination and categorization of Coast Guard fuel consumption at an enterprise level, continual expansion of world-wide reliable fuel sources through DLA contracts, and prudent management and training for efficient and consistent fuel card procurement.