Navy’s ‘Great Green Fleet’ to Run on Beef Fat

The Navy's Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS Stockdale, shown Jan. 20, 2016, in San Diego, is the first Navy ship running on an alternative fuel blend in regular operations. (Photo by Will Gaskill/Navy)The Navy's Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS Stockdale, shown Jan. 20, 2016, in San Diego, is the first Navy ship running on an alternative fuel blend in regular operations. (Photo by Will Gaskill/Navy)

As the Navy launched the first ship of its “Great Green Fleet” this week, officials revealed that the secret ingredient of the alternative fuel blend powering the ships was waste beef fat — provided by farmers and ranchers in the Midwest.

The launch comes seven years after Navy Secretary Ray Mabus first announced the concept, focused on promoting the use of alternative fuels and energy efficiency across the Navy.

Mabus and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack attended Wednesday’s deployment of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Stockdale, which became the first Navy ship running on an alternative fuel blend in regular operations, according to a Navy news release.

That alternative fuel blend, produced by AltAir Fuels out of California, is composed of a mix of beef tallow and traditional petroleum, officials said. The Navy has purchased 77.6 million gallons of the fuel at a competitive $2.05 per gallon.

That cost-competitive requirement came about after the Navy launched a miniature version of the Great Green Fleet concept during the 2012 Rim of the Pacific joint exercise in Hawaii, spending $12 million to procure 450,000 gallons of an algae-based biofuel blend.

When some lawmakers learned the cost of the fuel worked out to about $26 per gallon, they worked to pass a law preventing bulk purchase of biofuels unless their cost was competitive with conventional fuel sources.

The Navy plans to deploy the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group using the alternative fuels. Along with the Stockdale, the ships in the group include the Stennis, guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay, and guided-missile destroyers USS William P. Lawrence and USS Chung-Hoon.

“When it comes to power, my focus has been about one thing and one thing only: better warfighting,” Mabus said at the ship launch, according to Navy reports. “The Great Green Fleet shows how we are transforming our energy use to make us better warfighters, to go farther, stay longer and deliver more firepower. In short, to enable us to provide the global presence that is our mission.”

About the Author

Hope Hodge Seck
Hope Hodge Seck is a reporter at Military.com. She can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.
  • blight_

    If the fuel becomes cheaper than extraction via shale/tar sands/hydraulic fracturing, we’re in business. And it gives us leverage against the Saudis, Iranians, Venezuelans, Nigerians and Canadians.

    :)

  • caracoid

    “When it comes to power, my focus has been about one thing and one thing only: better war fighting,”

    I guess nobody thought to ask him why beef fat makes the navy better at war fighting.

  • Patriot on a String

    Working in the diesel industry I can say finally the government can learn how their rush to push bio-diesel has resulted in no true industry standards. We have seen single cell fungi, molds, and bacteria accidentally created that consume not only the biologicals in bio-diesel, but the diesel and now gasoline… Seen many units leave dealerships to go out to individuals back in a week with clogged filters, failed injection pumps, and other engine damage… And Tier IV catalyst stopped up and failed in less than 200 hours even when the computer shows that the required regeneration process was completed on time every time… Good Luck Uncle Sam… Here’s some of your own medicine… And stay near the equator of you’ll be DOA when phase separation occurs from poor temperature control on your fuel storage and supply… Ha Ha…

  • grogster

    There is something wrong with beef fat powering a green fleet!! That’s like Donald Trump receiving the Democratic nomination for president. I don’t have a beef with this idea, but it should be the beef fleet! After all now that they have (or will have) lasers they will be barbecuing whatever comes their way. I do not see if this setup will run on regular fuel so that if they run out of beef they won’t be stuck asking “where’s the Beef” Has this been USDA approved?

    • blight_

      “Green” isn’t the same as being vegetarian or vegan…calm down and have a burger.

  • blight_

    Surprised we don’t use pork fat.

    Would that offend our Middle Eastern ports of call? Har har.

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  • Dave H

    was this taken from the onion???? whats next… containing the methane from cow farts to power the air force?
    beef fat? if this is in fact true, how could this be viable, beef production as it is, is anything but green. Even if this is true… it sounds a lot like they are reviving the old diesel fleet running biodiesel…

  • Sandy_1

    The military becomes better at war fighting when it reduces its reliance on all fossil fuels, with their high supply and operational costs, as well as human costs associated with protecting fuel dominant logistics chains. There’s an interesting movie out on this, which pretty well makes this case and shows why the military is committed to being a leader in alternative fuel research. http://www.theburdenfilm.com/

  • Sandy_1

    The military becomes better at war fighting when it reduces its reliance on all fossil fuels, with their high supply and operational costs, as well as human costs associated with protecting fuel dominant logistics chains. There’s an interesting movie out on this, which pretty well makes this case and shows why the military is committed to being a leader in alternative fuel research. http://www.theburdenfilm.com/

  • stephen russell

    Convert all fuel burning ships to such fuels & examine Thorium reactors to replace N reactors for carriers & subs alone too.
    Have FFGs, DDGs, cruisers, tankers, amphibs on Biofuels & USS Gerald Ford on Thorium reactors, be awesome

  • Tom Fitz

    Not an expert at all, but it seems logical for DOD to be experimenting with substitutes (bio- or whatever) for fossil fuel in the long term. Certainly no more far out than their experimenting with the LCS.

    I doubt it’s truly cost-effective at this moment (fluctuations in the oil market aside) but that’s the nature of experiments.

  • Tom Fitz

    Not an expert at all, but it seems logical for DOD to be experimenting with substitutes (bio- or whatever) for fossil fuel in the long term. Certainly no more far out than their experimenting with the LCS.

  • blight_

    http://www.biomassmagazine.com/articles/9055/unit

    Looks like United Airlines jumped on this in 2013.