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Thread: Fueling the military
10-19-08, 08:53 AM #1
Fueling the military
Fueling the military
With oil prices high, U.S. forces implement cost-saving changes
By Teri Weaver and Jennifer Svan, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Sunday, October 19, 2008
TOKYO - When the USS Kitty Hawk retires in the coming months, the Navy’s annual fuel bill will drop by about 700,000 barrels of oil — nearly 2 percent of its overall fuel consumption per year.
Powering down the massive Kitty Hawk — the Navy’s last conventionally fueled aircraft carrier — is a substantial savings in a military that buys 130 million barrels of oil each year, an amount equal to the annual fuel consumption of Sweden.
But the military is looking to save as the price they pay for fuel has nearly doubled in the last fiscal year alone — from $91 a barrel in October 2007 to $171 a barrel in summer — though prices have declined globally this fall.
The Air Force, which uses half of the military’s fuel purchases, is working to cut flying hours by 10 percent.
The Navy, the next biggest user of military fuel, has installed drag-reducing metal flaps on the bottom of many of its ships, a move that cut the fuel bill by $11.5 million in fiscal year 2007.
The Marine Corps, the military’s smallest service and smallest user of fuel, has cut fuel consumption in its noncombat vehicle fleet by 26 percent from 1999 to 2007, from 10.5 million gas gallon equivalents, a measure of fuel consumption, to 7.7 million.
Across the services, commanders and unit leaders are being told to cut fuel costs where they can, from transporting more people in fewer vehicles to powering down computers during off-duty hours, military spokespeople said in recent weeks.
Some base construction projects around the world include the installation of solar panels and energy-smart appliances. On Guam, the Navy is studying the feasibility of capturing wind power that could one day help light sailors’ homes.
"We want to be a smart energy customer," said Navy Capt. Arthur Cotton, head of the Fleet Training and Readiness reporting branch.
Still, it’s a monumental goal for a military waging two wars and dealing with the uncertainty of future fuel prices, officials acknowledge.
"We’ve got to remember we’re a nation at war," Cotton said. "While we are concerned, we won’t risk the capability we need to save a little on fuel."
In 2002, as the military began its campaign in Afghanistan and ramped up for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, its overall fuel consumption jumped from about 110 million barrels a year to 130 million barrels, according Carol O’Leary, the director of financial operations at the Pentagon’s Defense Energy Service Center.
Since then, consumption has stayed steady, she said.
"It’s the cost projection that is a mystery," O’Leary said. "If any of us knew it, we’d be on Wall Street."
The U.S. military uses about 2 percent of the nation’s fuel, according to DESC. Military officials say they are a small customer on the market, that the 1 million barrels of oil used every three days does not drive the market.
Those barrels come to the Pentagon at a fixed price. The DESC buys oil each day in massive amounts around the world, paying varied prices, depending on the market. It then re-sells that oil at a fixed rate to the military, with an 8 percent to 9 percent markup to cover administrative costs.
To have a steady supply of fuel and to have a steady budget, the DESC traditionally sets its resell price to the military once a year. Since 2005, however, the agency has had to readjust during the year, officials said. Last fiscal year, it set the price in October and increased it in December and again in July.
So at the end of the summer, while consumers were seeing relief at the gas pumps, the military was still paying a high rate. To counter that, here are some things the Air Force, the Navy and the Marine Corps are trying.
(The Army, which accounts for about 17 percent of the military’s fuel usage, declined to participate in an interview for this story. Army spokesman Lt. Col. Lee Packnett said the Army is expecting to release information about its fuel efficiency efforts. "It’s forthcoming," he said during a phone call in mid-August.)
This year’s push to cut flying hours by 10 percent will give the Air Force a new baseline for time in the air, officials said.
The effort began in 2006, with each major command directed to identify which training could move from the aircraft into simulators.
William Anderson, Air Force assistant secretary for installations, environment and logistics, said the reduction in flying hours will not affect missions.
"When the Air Force needs to fly, whether for kinetic effect or humanitarian efforts, the Air Force is meeting the mission it’s called on to do," he said.
Yet, the result of the effort so far is akin to swimming upstream in a very expensive river.
In the past four years, the Air Force has cut its overall fuel consumption by 17 percent, from 3 billion gallons in fiscal 2003 to 2.5 billion gallons in fiscal 2007.
But in the past three years, jet fuel prices climbed from $1.74 a gallon in the summer of 2005 to $4.07 a gallon this summer, according the Air Force.
Despite less consumption, the Air Force’s aviation fuel bill rose 115 percent, from $2.6 billion in fiscal 2003 to $5.6 billion in fiscal 2007, according to Anderson, who spoke to Stars and Stripes last summer shortly before submitting his resignation to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
To combat this, the Air Force means to gas up its aircraft with a synthetic fuel blend beginning in 2011.
The fuel is a 50-50 mix of the traditional, petroleum-based JP-8 fuel with a combination of either natural gas or liquid coal. The project’s goal is to reduce dependence on foreign oil and insulate the Air Force from the unstable global oil market, officials said.
By 2016, the service would like to buy half of its fuel for stateside aviation needs domestically — an estimated 400 million gallons, Anderson said.
While some aircraft have already flown with the blend, several hurdles remain, including resources.
"At a commercial scale, no, there is not a domestic source," Anderson said. "The synthetic fuel industry is just now beginning to develop globally."
Only two coal-to-liquids plants are now operating worldwide, both in South Africa, according to The Associated Press.
Another problem is the product’s larger carbon footprint. The synthetic fuel is cleaner than JP-8, but refining produces more carbon than JP-8. Ongoing research is meant to capture and reuse that carbon, Anderson said.
And unlike its role in conventional fuel markets, the Air Force hopes its interest in synthetic fuel will influence the U.S. market to follow suit.
"We’re acting as a consumer and as a big consumer," Anderson said. "We’re the size and scope of the largest airlines in this country."
The Navy is working on two main programs to cut ship fuel consumption.
The first is an incentive to get individual sailors and commands to conserve energy while afloat — from turning off lights to running the ships engine more efficiently. Ships that achieve a 10 percent reduction while at sea get cash for morale programs, Cotton said. So far, the Navy has given out $4 million and cut their energy bill by $11.5 million, according to a Navy spokesman.
The second program calls for installing metal stern flaps on frigates, destroyers, dock landing and amphibious ships — the bulk of the Navy’s fleet. The flaps distribute pressure on the ship’s rear, even bringing that end out of the water if necessary to reduce drag, according to Navy Lt. Leroy J. Mitchell, the engineering officer on the USS Fitzgerald at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan.
Mitchell said the flaps help reduce consumption, though not tremendously. Consumption relates more directly to a ship’s mission and its speed, he said. The Fitzgerald, a guided-missile destroyer, runs on just one engine and one shaft — rather than full power with four engines and two shafts — whenever it can and cruises at 21 knots, a moderate speed, he said.
Each stern flap installation costs $260,000, Cotton said. The Navy has also stepped up its hull-cleaning program, a traditional way of keeping the ship more efficient in the water. The total savings of both these programs at today’s fuel prices are projected at $55 million annually, or about 1 percent of the Navy’s overall consumption rate.
Both the Air Force and the Navy said they are pushing virtual training, whether with individual pilots in simulators and worldwide computer games, which involve troops around the globe but without any travel costs. The services also are planning to "right-size" about one-third of their passenger vehicles on bases.
While the Air Force is exploring synthetic fuels, both services said they can’t risk readiness or security with testing alternative fuel supplies.
"It’s immature," Cotton said of looking at other emerging fuels at this time. "It’s not prudent for us to bet on one of those sources."
The Marines don’t have an across-the-board policy to reduce fuel consumption in its tactical operations, according to Capt. Amy Malugani, a Marine Corps spokeswoman at the Pentagon. That is partly because the Corps structurally falls under the Department of Navy and operationally work for the Navy and the Army, she said.
And, because missions are often tied directly to Navy and Army operations, Marine fuel use is sometimes buried in those budgets, she said. Last year, the Marines used $45 million worth of fuel, according to its own books.
But, she added, the Marines have been buying up transport vehicles that can handle more passengers, and commanders are under a general push to make smart decisions about fuel use.
The Corps has had consistent success at reducing fuel uses in its noncombat fleet for nearly a decade, according to Jim Gough, the commercial vehicle fleet director within the Marines’ Installations and Logistics Department.
From 1999 to 2007, the Marines’ trucks, cars, forklifts and buses used 26 percent less fuel, according to Gough. Reductions in recent months have slowed slightly because the Corps increased its noncombat fleet in 2007 from by 750 to 13,360 vehicles to match recruiting and expansion needs.
Overall, the average Marine Corps’ car traveled the same number of miles — 11,000 — but got one mile-per-gallon better mileage when looking at the fleet as a whole, according to Tom Smallwood, Gough’s deputy.
Some of the savings comes from the Corps’ 550 electric cars. Additional savings come from hybrids that use compressed natural gas, Smallwood and Gough said.
While commercial production of those hybrids has dropped in recent years, both men hope the military can push the market toward oil alternatives. A military base can install a natural gas pump and fill up its fleet, an easier transition than in civilian markets, they said.
Still, much of the savings just comes from good sense, they said.
"Some of this is not rocket science," Gough said. "It’s just good planning and common sense — making fewer trips, consolidating supply runs. We look for the low-hanging fruit."
IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY LATE HUSBAND, SSgt Roger A. Alfano, USMC
ONE PROUD MARINE
Once a Marine...Always a Marine
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