San Diego Business Journal

Navy Announces Plans for Bulk Biofuel Purchase

By Brad Graves Sunday, December 15, 2013
The F/A-18F Super Hornet, aka ‘Green Hornet,’ broke the sound barrier while running on a 50-50 mix of biofuel and conventional fuel. The biofuel was refined from the camelina plant.

The F/A-18F Super Hornet, aka ‘Green Hornet,’ broke the sound barrier while running on a 50-50 mix of biofuel and conventional fuel. The biofuel was refined from the camelina plant.

Federal officials have announced a new plan to buy biofuel in bulk for the U.S. Navy.

The Navy is looking for what it calls an advanced “drop-in” fuel, which can be blended with conventional fuel to power aircraft and ships.

Businesses nationwide — including San Diego’s General Atomics, Sapphire Energy Inc. and SG Biofuels — have been researching ways to produce fuel from plants or algae. The Navy has experimented with running jet aircraft and ships with biofuels.

The Navy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Dec. 11 that they will make a solicitation for bulk biofuel in 2014, seeking delivery by mid-2015. Biofuel blends will become part of regular fuel purchases, the two agencies said.

To date, biofuels have cost much more than petroleum products. Some in Congress have called biofuel a waste of money. But the Agriculture Department said in a statement that by 2016, prices could fall below $4 per gallon.

The government calls the joint Navy and Agriculture program “Farm-to-Fleet,” and said the effort will promote energy independence while producing jobs in rural America.

The bulk-buying announcement was originally to be televised to the Biotechnology Industry Organization conference in San Diego. Bad weather in Washington, D.C. postponed the announcement until after the conference was over.

In a statement, the industry organization said it welcomed the announcement.

“The Navy’s leadership in procuring advanced biofuels will encourage rapid scale up of new technologies and construction of capacity,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of organization’s industrial & environmental section.