U.S. Navy’s alternative fuel test successful

The United States Navy successfully concluded its largest demonstration of shipboard alternative fuel use with the successful arrival of the Self Defense Test Ship (SDTS) to Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme.

The SDTS is a decommissioned Spruance-class destroyer ex-Paul F. Foster reconfigured to provide the Navy an at-sea, remotely controlled, engineering test and evaluation platform without the risk to personnel or operational assets. The ship received approximately 20,000 gallons of a 50-50 blend of an algae-derived, hydro-processed algal oil and petroleum F-76 from the Defense Fuel Supply Point at Naval Base Point Loma.

The ship began its 17 hour transit back to Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme using the 50-50 blend. While EDD 964 has 4 LM 2500 main propulsion gas turbines and 4 501-K17 ship service gas turbine generators, the ship only operated on 1 LM 2500 and 2 501-K17s during the demonstration, so 100 percent of ship’s propulsion power and 50 percent of service power came from the algal oil/F-76 fuel blend.

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 SDTS test. The demonstration also marked the only at-sea operational test of alternative fuels in the LM 2500 – the engine found in most surface combatants – before the Green Strike Group demonstration in 2012.

“For the test, a baseline run was made on the ship’s transit from Port Hueneme to San Diego using F-76 fuel,” said Rick Kamin, Naval Fuels and Lubricants Cross Functional Team lead. “Using the 50-50 blend on the return run to Port Hueneme, the tested engines were assessed on their abilities to perform start sequences as well as motoring and purging operations noted in Engineering Operational Sequencing System procedures. We also collected data on compressor inlet temperature, engine speed, engine start time, fuel manifold pressure, turbine outlet temperature, turbine inlet temperature, ship service gas turbine generators power output, and gas turbine main engine shaft output.”

“From our perspective as the ship’s operators, there was absolutely no difference, whatsoever, in the operation or performance of the ship,” said Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme Division’s Mike Wolfe, underway project officer. “The fuel burned just like the traditional fuel we get from the Navy and have been burning for years. We could not tell the difference. The biggest success is that a Navy ship with engines identical to those in commissioned warships operated successfully on an overnight transit with the alternative fuel without a glitch in anything. Operationally, it was absolutely a success.”