Navy testing new "green" technologies during RIMPAC - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Navy testing new "green" technologies during RIMPAC

Rick Kamin Rick Kamin
Vice Admiral Phil Cullom Vice Admiral Phil Cullom
Lt. Cmdr. Jason Fox Lt. Cmdr. Jason Fox
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

In an effort to help reduce its dependence on foreign oil sources for fuel, the United States Navy is testing several "green" technologies during the 2012 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises.

On Wednesday, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus had a chance to experience some of the advances first hand, taking a ride of a helicopter that was powered by a 50/50 blend of aviation fuel and biofuels. The Navy is using the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and four other vessels to conduct tests.

So far, the feedback from crew members involved in the testing has been encouraging.

"We've done a lot of testing in the laboratory and flight test aircraft, but this is the first time the biofuels have gotten to an operational environment where it's not controlled," said Rick Kamin, U.S. Navy Fuels Lead.

One of the Navy's five priority energy goals is to develop a "Great Green Fleet," or an aircraft carrier strike group that is fueled by alternative energy sources. The aircraft carrier itself runs on nuclear power, but the planes and helicopters it carries ran on biofuel for Wednesday's tests.

"They said they couldn't have told the difference whether it was petroleum or a biofuel," said Vice Admiral Phil Cullom of the U.S. Navy. "So far, it has performed perfectly."

The new "drop-in replacement" technology means that none of the aircraft engines need to be altered for the new fuel blends, alleviating concerns from naval officers.

"I was worried when I first heard about it," said Lt. Commander Jason Fox. "Am I going to have to alter my aircraft? What am I going to have to do? Absolutely nothing."

One obstacle to the planned development of a green fleet is the cost, as the 450,000 gallons of 100% neat biofuel purchased for Wednesday's demonstration came with a $12 million dollar price tag, which raised congressional concern.

"We're going to continue to work very closely with congress to make sure that everything we do is in conjunction with them," said Mabus.

Supporters of the technology, though, say they expect it to be cost competitive with conventional fuels in the coming years, and the U.S. Navy recently signed a deal with the Royal Australian Navy regarding alternative fuel development that helps put them on track for that goal.

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