On January 30, the USDA held its first ever industry day on the newly established Farm to Fleet initiative, which seeks to provide price support from Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funds to allow the Department of Defense to purchase biofuels at the same cost as traditional bulk fuel purchases. With an expected solicitation this spring, Farm to Fleet hopes to provide 336 million gallons per year of fuel to the military by 2020.

Feedstocks : Farm to Fleet requires domestically produced, USDA-listed feedstocks to be eligible for conversion into finished fuels. Leading candidate feedstocks will likely be from fuel pathways that are Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) compliant. Acceptable feedstocks include, but are not limited to:

  • Slash, pre-commercial thinnings, tree residue and forest residue
  • Wood mill residue and waste
  • Camelina and camelina oil
  • Non-food grade corn oil
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Cellulosic biomass from crop residues
  • Switchgrass
  • Miscanthus
  • Energy cane
  • Fats, oils, and greases derived from initial vegetable or animal processing

Food waste, yard waste, and municipal solid waste would not be eligible.

Conversion Pathways : The Navy is seeking hydro-processed esters and fatty acid (HEFA) jet fuel or Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) pathways. HEFA jet fuel, refined from vegetable and animal oils, received ASTM certification in 2011 for commercial airline use. In the summer of 2012, the Navy successfully used 50/50 HEFA JP-5 and F-76 blends in its Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises. Biomass utilized in F-T fuel is gasified into a syngas, and synthesized using the Fischer-Tropsch process, one of the most established and tested conversion processes for coal, natural gas, and biomass feedstocks in the military.

From 2007-2012, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) purchased over 1,000,000 gallons of HEFA and 730,000 gallons of F-T for research, testing, and evaluation.

While other pathways have been tested by DOD, such as Alcohol-to-Jet fuel and Direct Sugar to Hydrocarbon, the 2012 RIMPAC exercises for the ‘Great Green Fleet’ solidified HEFA and F-T as the leading, proven biofuel pathways for this program.

Finished Fuels: JP-5 fuel has a wide range of applications, including aviation, carrier support equipment, emergency diesel generators, and ship propulsion (when downgraded). The most recent certification in July 2013 includes blends up to 50 percent of HEFA and F-T.

F-76 fuel is used in gas turbines, diesel engines, and boilers across the Navy’s many ships. F-76 is expected to receive its latest certification in February 2014, for up to 50 percent blends of HEFA and F-T as well.

For both fuels, military specifications must be met for the fuel to be considered a ‘drop-in fuel’, where the fuel can be mixed or alternated with petroleum fuel, with no changes to the aircraft, ship, or fueling and delivery infrastructure required.