May 17, 2020

RAND Report Says Alternative Fuels Won't Work For Military—Navy Disagrees

3 min
RAND Corporation Reports on Future of Biofuels in U.S. Military
Just last week, Energy Digital featured a report on the United States militarys efforts to pursue alternative fuel technology, in particular biofuels. T...
Just last week, Energy Digital featured a report on the United States military’s efforts to pursue alternative fuel technology, in particular biofuels. The Navy has been pursuing biofuels with vigor and is planning to reduce their fossil fuel consumption by 50% by 2020. However, the RAND Corporation presented a report to congress just yesterday urging the U.S. military to rethink their position on alternative fuels, claiming that they are an unviable solution to the U.S. military’s foreseeable energy needs.

According to the report, there is no way that the 10 year timetable laid out by the Navy will be sufficient time to produce enough biofuel at a cheap enough price to cover half the energy needs of Naval air, land and sea fleets. The report does however cite a process that could work as a cheap abundant alternative fuel option that has yet to make the renewable energy headlines, perhaps because it isn’t a renewable fuel source at all.

RAND Corp. believes that the Fischer-Tropsch process, which converts coal to diesel, is the best bet for an oil substitution when it comes to the military. Coal is still cheap and in abundance, but comes with the negative environmental implications associated with its extraction process. The report states that "Considering economics, technical readiness, greenhouse gas emissions and general environmental concerns, [Fischer-Tropsch] fuels derived from a mixture of coal and biomass represent the most promising approach to producing amounts of alternative fuels that can meet military, as well as appreciable levels of civilian, needs by 2030."

This seems a bit suspicious, that in the presence of a new republican-majority U.S. congress with stated intentions of reducing environmental oversight on coalmining, that the RAND Corporation would promote a coal-based alternative fuel over the several other biofuel options. Even algal biofuel—which is already successfully being converted into diesel and jet fuel for military applications—is being declined by RAND. Granted, RAND is a compendium of some of the brightest minds in the world, but maybe they’ve got it wrong on this one.

The U.S. Navy seems to think so. “We have been engaged with the biofuels industry. We know what they are capable of doing, and we are confident they will be able to deliver the fuels at the quantities and at the price point we need," said Tom Hicks, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for the U.S. Navy.

It doesn’t seem like RAND’s report will phase the military’s heavy investment into biofuels and other alternatives—especially in light of the fact that the report neglected to consult officials from the Navy’s higher-ranking secretariat. Nonetheless, the coal-to-fuel process will undoubtedly make its way onto the list of fuel options being actively pursued by the military.

Source: RAND Corporation

Share article

Jun 7, 2021

Trafigura and Yara International explore clean ammonia usage

Dominic Ellis
2 min
Commodity trading company Trafigura and Yara International sign MoU to explore developing ammonia as a clean fuel in shipping

Independent commodity trading company Trafigura and Yara International have signed an MoU to explore developing ammonia as a clean fuel in shipping and ammonia fuel infrastructure.

Reducing shipping emissions is a vital component of the fight against global climate change, yet Greenhouse Gas emissions from the global maritime sector are increasing - and at odds with the IMO's strategy to cut absolute emissions by at least 50% by 2050. 

How more than 70,000 ships can decrease their reliance on carbon-based sources is one of transport's most pressing decarbonisation challenges.

Yara and Trafigura intend to collaborate on initiatives that will establish themselves in the clean ammonia value chain. Under the MoU announced today, Trafigura and Yara intend to work together in the following areas:

  • The supply of clean ammonia by Yara to Trafigura Group companies
  • Exploration of joint R&D initiatives for clean ammonia application as a marine fuel
  • Development of new clean ammonia assets including marine fuel infrastructure and market opportunities

Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, President of Yara Clean Ammonia, said the agreement is a good example of cross-industry collaboration to develop and promote zero-emission fuel in the form of clean ammonia for the shipping industry. "Building clean ammonia value chains is critical to facilitate the transition to zero emission fuels by enabling the hydrogen economy – not least within trade and distribution where both Yara and Trafigura have leading capabilities. Demand and supply of clean ammonia need to be developed in tandem," he said.  

There is a growing consensus that hydrogen-based fuels will ultimately be the shipping fuels of the future, but clear and comprehensive regulation is essential, according to Jose Maria Larocca, Executive Director and Co-Head of Oil Trading for Trafigura.

Ammonia has a number of properties that require "further investigation," according to Wartsila. "It ignites and burns poorly compared to other fuels and is toxic and corrosive, making safe handling and storage important. Burning ammonia could also lead to higher NOx emissions unless controlled either by aftertreatment or by optimising the combustion process," it notes.

Trafigura has co-sponsored the R&D of MAN Energy Solutions’ ammonia-fuelled engine for maritime vessels, has performed in-depth studies of transport fuels with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and has published a white paper on the need for a global carbon levy for shipping fuels to be introduced by International Maritime Organization.

Oslo-based Yara produces roughly 8.5 million tonnes of ammonia annually and employs a fleet of 11 ammonia carriers, including 5 fully owned ships, and owns 18 marine ammonia terminals with 580 kt of storage capacity – enabling it to produce and deliver ammonia across the globe.

It recently established a new clean ammonia unit to capture growth opportunities in emission-free fuel for shipping and power, carbon-free fertilizer and ammonia for industrial applications.

Share article