Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The other side of "green"

I never really got all that worked up about the quasi-political "Green Navy" pet project by the SECNAV. Afterall, I like concept demonstrations on a small scale to try things out. Bio-diesel isn't a new concept for anyone.

For full disclosure - I am in my own way a "Greenie." When I returned to the states, I almost got a "grease car" myself - but in the climate where Salamanders live, you need better storage options unless you want to feed legions of insects. I am a member of a local organic farm coop ... I compost ... do everything but grow a ponytail and wear patchouli oil ... so I'm not one of "those" anti-green types. I do have a sensitive BS meter though ....

The Navy seemed a little silly getting all worked up about it - kind of like the teenager who thinks they discovered s3x - but that is OK; I gave us the benefit of the doubt as I have a bit of a weakness for the Knight-Errant vibe of it all.

That was then; this is now.

We have huge problems with our budget. We are impacting the lives of thousands of our Sailors because we claim to be in a money crunch. In times like these, any normal organization has to take a serious look at where it is spending its money. You have to get rid of most all "fun to have" and get rid of or scale back the balance of "nice to have."

The Navy's experiment with bio-diesel was interesting in a way - behind the technology curve and a bit blinkered - but worth a demonstration just to confirm that military systems can do the same thing civilian systems ... silly, but OK.

Now, I'm afraid, it is out of control. It has become a vanity project, tone-death to the financial crunch that the actual operational side of the military is under. It just jumped the cost-benefit shark.
The Navy – along with its newest ally, the Agriculture Department – announced Monday that they are purchasing nearly a half-million gallons of biofuels for an air-sea military exercise next summer. “Our use of fossil fuels is a very real threat to our national security, and to the U.S. Navy's ability to protect America and to project power overseas,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said.

A quick jog around the calculator shows the deal is costing the government about $26.66 a gallon for the biofuel alone.

Look though - they let the mask slip a bit.
Mabus and Tom Vilsack, the ag boss, said they are buying 450,000 gallons of fuel – for $12 million – from Solazyme and Dynamic Fuels LLC, a joint venture of Tyson Foods, Inc. and the Syntroleum Corporation. Solarzyme's fuel is derived from algae, and Dynamics comes from used cooking oil and animal fat not suitable for food. Mabus added that the fuels, his latest push for a "Great Green Fleet," can be used without engine mods.

The deal marks the largest government purchase of biofuel in history, and will be used to power a carrier battle group during next summer's maritime operation off Hawaii (the carrier is nuclear powered, but the other vessels – and the aircraft based on the carrier -- will be using a 50-50 mix of biofuel and standard petroleum products).

The Navy has long been a trendsetter in this area, Mabus noted. “We went from sail to coal in the 1850s, we went from coal to oil in the early part of the 20th century, and we pioneered nuclear in the 1950s.” he said. “And we're going to lead once again by helping establish a market for biofuels.”
Who made Van Jones Undersecretary of the Navy? And for the record - the Navy had nothing to do with establishing a market for coal or oil that wasn't already happening. Any economic historian will tell you that.

"... helping establish a market for biofuels." About as catchy as "Global Force for Good."


AW1 Tim said...

  I am not at all opposed to the US Navy taking the lead in new fuels, new technology. If we can do it well, and do it for the same or less than current fuels/tech, then have at it, as long as their is a stable logistical tail and source for it.

   What I AM opposed to ios the US Navy being used as a petri dish for ever social welfare/engineering/tech/whatever experiment that some congress critter or administration hack gets up their skirt.

   As you rightly point out, these are times of austerity, which is amazing naive and terrifying given that we are in a war. A real honest-to-goodness shooting war.

  I am glad our Navy can do this, in one sense, because it totally pisses off the greenies and causes no small amount of hand=wringing when the Navy actually does what they are only preaching.  For example, the MV Esperanza, flagship & showboat of Green Peace, still runs on fossil fuels, despite all their own "green" energy experimentations.

More of my thoughts are at my own place:

If I am out of line adding the link, feel free to delete it and accept my apologies.


MR T's Haircut said...

<span>"Tom Vilsack"</span>
<span>all you needed to add, to show the motive... someone is getting rich.. follow the money... asshattery</span>

hippie pest control said...

i like mabus from what i've seen of him in meetings, but this and the ship names (uss murtha) make me sad.  we'd be running sails again if one of his buddies sold sail cloth.

BUTCH said...

Sounds like another Solyndra.

Cui bono, indeed.

BUTCH said...

These guys turned the crony capitalism up to 11.

ExnNFO said...

Since I "know" someone working/having to deal with this stuff, I see secondhand the frustration caused by being forced to find green projects because there is a pot of money available rather than addressing critical infrastructure problems.  Lot's of pilot projects with pictures of the base CO standing there instead of long term fixes.  Navy is also "paying" for green projects using PROJECTED energy savings. 

Active bubblehead said...

Some "green" makes good tactical sense. Case in point the Marines ex-FOB tests that can reduce the number of fuel convoys in Iraq/Afghanistan.

Biofuels do not pass the same bar.  Biofuels often get referred to as part of the logical progression from sail to coal to petroleum to nuclear. Those other shifts each provided tactical advantages to the ship:
- Coal allowed ships to maneuver independent of the wind
- Petroleum allowed ships to travel further and faster
- Nuclear allowed ships to travel even further and greatly opened the aperature for submarine operations
- What advantage does biofuel provide the ship?  We replace one carbon-liquid fuel with another carbon-based liquid fuel; one that is most likely less energy dense and therefore reduces range.  If we could place algae tanks onboard to produce more fuel it might provide a tactical advantage, otherwise... 

Retired Now said...

All Navy (and Coast Guard ??) have specified Endurance requirements.   You know, like 3,500 nm max range at optimal speed.

Turns out LCS-1 class must go also 3,500 nm to meet her Endurance reqmt.    That speed is 10 knots, that Navsea claims so that LCS can actually "steam" (on her diesels) for 3,500 nm.    How much fuel does she use to go this far ?  Well, every drop she carries, minus the 5 % that can never be pulled out of the tanks.

Recall your math: D = R x T.    At 10 knots, LCS-1 can "steam" for 14 days before she goes DIW and drifts.   Turns out that LCS-1 cannot even make the transit across the Atlantic Ocean doing her most economical speed.   So after LCS departs Norfolk, a 2 full weeks at 10 knots, she still has not made it to Spain where she could take on fuel at Rota, where the Navy is soon homeporting 4 AEGIS ships permanently.  Of course the crew will be running out of food about this time also. 

Active bubblehead points out that "green" fuel contains less energy than the Navy's standard fuel oil, so expect LCS to go DIW about a week before she arrives at Rota.   Will NAVSEA change all the Endurance SPEC's for each DDG, CG, LSD, LHA, LHD, LCS, MCM, etc. to allow for the reduced ranges provided by "green" fuels ?   Just wondering if NAVSEA is thinking all this through ?    

The Usual Suspect said...

<span>Does anybody remember Synfuels Corp. from the Carter Era?  We built a synthetic demonstration plant at our Washington refinery - it produced the products intended, but not in an economically feasible manner; even if you scaled it up.  The equipment was removed and shipped back to the government, but the footings for the units still remain.  A testament to the foolishness that is the United States Government thinking it can pick winners and losers in the business of business.  Look how well they did with GM, Chrysler, the banks, etc.  
Algae can become a viable production method as soon as it can be done in a continuous process vs a batch mode.  Shell and some others are already working on algae reactors to produce diesel.  We should all remember that we are sitting on the largest reserves of hydrocarbons in the world right here in the USA.  The only thing stopping us from using it are the lefties.  I liken it to the starving Hindu with the pet cow in the yard - no reason for starving.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the environment; however, that is at a comfortable 68 degrees at 75 mph on a smooth, quite set of tires, in my pick-up with its leather seats and wood trimmed interior, with a 1/2 yard of gravel in the back by the firewood and the deer.</span>

Old Farter said...

Call me when we start using a gravimetric field displacement manifold. Then we'll talk, or rather, Engage.

Old Grunt said...

<p><span><span><span>I thought this was a joke. Surmising it wasn’t, my stomach churned.<span>  </span>Then I thought Navy might be buying 450,000 BARRELS of bio-fuel at $27/barrel and started feeling better.. Then TIME verified the quantity and my stomach churned again. Then I thought that bio-fuel had a greater energy factor so ships ranges would be significantly extended and felt better. Then I read bio-fuels are less efficient thereby reducing ship ranges and I made my way to the head. Then I remembered fuel costs for Afghanistan. The US pays about $3.50/gallon for fuel. That only gets it to Pakistan.<span>  </span>Total cost of delivering each gallon to Bagram, since it has to be trucked through Pakistan which means certain theft or destruction, ends up around $400. The $27 the Navy is paying didn’t sound so bad. THEN, I read the </span><span>IG report which concluded DoN installed solar panels at Marine and Navy bases without first determining if the panels paid for themselves. As it turns out, they couldn’t so the DoN (and taxpayers) won't recover $25.1 million of the $50.8 million invested and I asked myself is there ANYONE in DoN in charge when it comes to “green energy?” </span></span></span><span><span><span>Do they care about the waste, fraud and abuse they are involved in and how it undermines their credibility? Is there anyone doing even a back-of-the-envelope cost benefit analysis?<span>  H</span>as our military become so corrupt and incompetent that there is no one who cares or those who do care are terrified for their careers if they complain? I wonder how many retiring O-6s and above or SESs will be working for </span><span>Solazyme and Dynamic Fuels LLC?</span><span>  H</span></span></span><span><span><span>ow do we stop all this silliness? My stomach can’t take it.</span></span></span><span></span></p>

Surfcaster said...

When has a back-of-the-envelope-cost-benefit-analysis ever trumped political expediency or a political donor?

Exhibits (I could go on): LCS, F35, Government in general.

RPetersen said...

I've been using biodiesel for about 10 years now, at 10-20% Bio to Dino in VW cars and Dodge truck. You take a minor hit in mileage, on the order of 5% or less. the BD has far higher lubricity than dino fuels, thus adding to the longevity of diesels, injector pumps etc.  Latest intel indicates significantly reduced nasties emmitted, but there is some contra indications on NOX.  Storage is an issue, BD does not age well, and it makes a great solvent for paint, rubber etc.

Here's the part I don't get...I pay about $4.75 a gallon for BD. How in blazes can the naval idiots pay 5X more?  If they end up driving up my costs for BD, I'll stop using it as will I'm sure a large number of folks

Anybody can make a mistake, it takes a government agency to make a gigantic ongoing total screwup...well, maybe banks can too.

pk said...

some dumb little details:

ok , so we're going to burn purple frenchfry squeezins. 450,000 gallons. injecting a little reality does the head shed realize that one of the belknaps burned about 40,000 gallons per hour at flank speed and that this batch would last a bit less than 12 hours???? thats on a steamer. i picked a steamer because they could handle fuel that had about 7% water, ten pounds per cubic yard of sludge and bacteria up the wazoo. because of the forgiving nature it means that we would probably not have to clean and recover the insides of the tank, 450k gal won't fill up even a liddle tank in this league. then there's the fuel oil transfer and service pumps (probably about 8 per ship) that will have to have their innards changed out to handle the new stuff......

if the prospective victim is a gas turbine then the tanks will have to be cleaned and any damage to the covering, there's about eight different layers of it in there, repaired. the  fos and fot pumps will have to be rebuilt with new cores at about $25,000 each. of course the purifiers will have to have new dams installed, on the delavals they look like 9mm cartridge cases, and the tech reps will extract their daily (~ $3000) ransome as this stuff probably has not been burned in large turbines before.

all of the time its on board and in service the Cheng and his merry men will be worrying about just what this stuff does to the various orings in the machinery because this kind of fun and games has been known to eat orings at rapid rates. its so bad the cheng will probably want to go topside to eyeball that the fleet tug thats supposed to be accompanying them is still there.

of course the oil king will have to sweat the bacteria growth and if he puts the wrong bacteriacide in the tank then that might eat the orings too.

naturally returning to the standard fuel means undoing all of the above.

and whats that thing about a spruance taking 19 hrs to run from san diego to hueneme on this stuff. in the deep blue navy that was a noon to liberty call run if the homies lived outside the front gate at H.

oh by the way don't we know the name tyson foods from a previous administration, something about a blue dress and billable hours........


pk said...


if it was $26 per <span>barrel </span>COMCRUDESPAC would be laughing maniacaly all the way to the bank.


James said...

Some where in the atlantic....

"Their going to put WHAT in my engines?"

James said...

But in all seriousness this is Congress run amuck.

Congradulations.this is what happens when politicans put the good of their own voters ahead of the greater good of the country.

"You want those ships? Well your going to have to figure out a way to fund my election campaign...i dont want money....but you see there are very few people in my county and alot of corn....well corn makes biofuel and i just happen to have stock in a local buisness that makes lets talk"

GOD that pisses me off. And some call that progress...

ENZ, USN said...

       The navy has gas turbine testing facilities with the mock ups of actual engineering plants in Philadelphia.  If it wants to prove that this can work without damaging or needing to replace actual parts in a ship (doubtful), do it there, off of a ship that would reduce the operational capability of an already straining fleet.  Run the water break and figure out the energy density of the biofuels, the price per gallon, and the numbers that really matter, how much it costs to run the ship (varying speeds, age of fuel, bacteria content).
      It is big decisions like this that are blatantly to appease congress vice look at the warfighting and operational capability of our ships that make sailors pissed off.  Especially when they can tell that it simply means that the officers in charge of them are doing such things just to work for a good FITREP bullet.  We don't need to put our ships through any unnecessary testing when we already have issues completing maintenance correctly and efficiently to sustain our fleet.

Finally felt like adding my 2 cents.  I'm a reader of 2 or so years that studied Mechanical Engineering before getting commissioned last spring.  One of the things that became apparent once I got out to the fleet is that the support structure for training and guiding the Junior Enlisted is in place, but it seems like Officers are treated like low level royalty by the enlisted (not leaders) and the senior officers provide little training or guidance.  My hope is that it is simply the perspective of my ship, but my fear is that it is much more prevalent throughout the fleet (the Intro SWOS being the big indicator).

Chris G. said...

Oh boy. Don't get me started. "Green" has become a religion in DoN...I'm not sure if the IG reports have stopped it.

It started with "not only is green energy cool, it's also *cheaper* than fossil fuel". Then when that was proven to be BS at most locations, it became an argument for security. "Well, it might not be cheaper, but it weans us from foreign oil." And so we undo years of utility privatization, and try to self-generate "green" power.

 My CO *started* to get the picture when I told him it would take 40 acres of solar panels to handle the base's electrical load. But he still put solar panels by the command bldg...what Marine can resist a photo-op?

It'll take a regime (I mean administration) change to purge this religion. Until then, lots of contractors will make lots of money on green energy.

Hey, what else ya gonna spend it on? 


Eagle1 said...

Well, shipmate, it's about time you recognized the "green" in this project is more misdirected taxpayer dollars. "Create a market" - what an absurdity!

When PO1 Timmy is sent home because of money shortages, I hope his friends and family remember this sort of fraud, waste and abuse when they visit the polls.

Anonymous said...


there also used to be a 600# and a 1200# plant at the machinist mate schools at great lakes.

i ran a test plant at our yard for about 8 months. those things area instrumented pretty good. However lots of things are proposed but founder on the rock of money.

navsea wanted us to run a worthington 1200# boiler feed pump for 5000 hours straight back in the middle 80's. the proposal faded fast when we discovered that we would have to hire two more boiler operators, enlarge the feedwater reserve tanks, and then we could not guarantee a continous run for that amount of time. (it would have been about 30 weeks). when we toldthem that the project faded fast.

cdrsalamander said...

Drop me an email pls.  I want to flesh out an idea with you.

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

The Navy was not in the forefront of the coal to sail movement, they were dragged kicking and screaming into the steam era.

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

Anything over the $4.75 gets funneled back to the DNC, I should think.

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

Tim runs a Good Site, it is Badger Approved, so read it.

Adversus Omnes Dissident said...

What an empty suit of a SECNAV.  You know, weak folks tend to stick with what they are comfortable with.  In CNO Roughead's case, it wasn't the budget proccesses.  He wanted to be out of DC any time that the POM discussions came up.  And he was.

Now with SECNAV, he totally ignores his Title Ten responsibilities:
        (1) Recruiting.
        (2) Organizing.
        (3) Supplying.
        (4) Equipping (including research and development).
        (5) Training.
        (6) Servicing.
        (7) Mobilizing.
        (8) Demobilizing.
        (9) Administering (including the morale and welfare of
        (10) Maintaining.
        (11) The construction, outfitting, and repair of military
        (12) The construction, maintenance, and repair of buildings,
    structures, and utilities and the acquisition of real property and
    interests in real property necessary to carry out the
    responsibilities specified in this section.

And instead does this:  Green energy, elimination of sexual harassment.

Adversus Omnes Dissident said...

The analysis has been done.  It will cost you over $200 for biofuel, be it algae based or corn based.  Additionally, your "carbon footprint" is through the roof.  You burn more energy "creating energy" than the finished product.  Net loss.  Additionally, you would need to create a chimera algae plant in order to produce enough plant material, and additionally you would need millions of acres to grow it.

Hmmm.......millions of acres, chimera algae plant, sounds like China's Red Algae dilhemma times a billion.

Latent Infantry NCO said...

As an embarked Marine, I once heard a young sailor snap back to an "every Marine is a rifleman" comment with "every Sailor is a firefighter".

If that's true, certainly someone in the DC field has teated this brand of biofuel with the Navy's current stock of Class B firefighting foam. Riiggght????? Ever seen your nice fluffy foam stream dissolve into the proverbial lake of fire? Not a comforting thought.

Never mind the fact that burning your food (which is what SVO is doing) is a horrible economic idea. Turning food into energy is a bodily function not a governmental one.

Latent Infantry NCO said...

Because coal offered something the Navy had almost no experience with - potential energy storage.

Biofuel is not a paradigm change like coal was. It's simply less potential energy stored for a given amount of space, something the Navy should be keenly defensive of.

(Does a little buzzer go off at Sal's desk if I use words like paradigm in the comments?)

UltimaRatioRegis said...

"<span> Turning food into energy is a bodily function not a governmental one."</span>

A-MEN to that.  Difference being that the body producing it calls the residue what it really is, and the government doing so calls it a "shovel-ready green-energy initiative". 

But they're both the same product.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

"<span>(Does a little buzzer go off at Sal's desk if I use words like paradigm in the comments?)"</span>

Yep.  He thinks you are gonna give him $.20.

Kristen said...

<span>"do everything but grow a ponytail and wear patchouli oil" </span>

A huge relief.  I have this mental image of you, and it definitely doesn't include a ponytail and patchouli oil.

Byron said...

Think, "Grey" Greyhound :)

Latent Infantry NCO said...

I saw the camera on my monitor come on when I typed it. It got all George Orwell around here and I resisted the urge to smash it with the pommel of my K-Bar. I promise to reign in the govspeak, though.

Old Grunt said...

I knowthis isn't the time (then again, maybe it is) to be bashing the LCS.  BUT I will. You talk about the range of LCS being about 3,500 miles at 10 knots, proboably less on bio fuel.  I find it remarkable that a WWII GATO-class submarine could travel 11,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) surfaced at 10 knots (19 km/h)<sup></sup><span>. Admittedly it was only 1,600 tons vs LCS's 3,000 tons but it is still THREE times the range of the new, high tech LCS. A modernized (heck, even a WWII) GATO SS could run cirlces around an LCS. Are we taking giant leaps backwards?</span>

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Don't worry about that surveillance.  Janet Napolitano would never use any collected information to profile war veterans who believed in small government and the Second Amendment as home-grown terrorists...

And Eric Holder would never orchestrate a gunrunning scam that got border agents killed as a strawman for firearm confiscation.

So, no worries.

Retired Now said...

Come on now.  Give Navsea a break here.   Please wait until Hull # 11 or # 12 before you point out how 70 year old WW-II subs were far better warships than an LTS.  

Navsea will need to study those 4 waterjets for 10 years to see if they are the wrong size given the over-sized giant gas turbines installed.   LTS 11 or LTS 12 might get a few more miles if they right sized those Rolls Royce waterjets.

Be patient.  The USA graduates 15 times more lawyers than it does Engineers each year. 

BTW,  LTS = Littoral Target Ship.     55 will be built for target practice (by the enemies on each LTS).  

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