Biofuels on agenda during US Navy visit

This article has photo gallery Published on Scott Rutherford (author), LSIS Peter Thompson (photographer)

Location(s): Sydney, New South Wales

Topic(s): Fleet Base East

Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer, CSC and Bar, RAN, United States Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy (Management), Thomas W. Hicks, pioneer of the Alternative Transport Fuels Initiative, Dr. Susan Pond, AM, of Sydney University, and Director for Operational Energy at U.S. Department of Navy, Chris Tindal aboard the USS Stethem. (photo: LSIS Peter Thompson)
Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer, CSC and Bar, RAN, United States Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy (Management), Thomas W. Hicks, pioneer of the Alternative Transport Fuels Initiative, Dr. Susan Pond, AM, of Sydney University, and Director for Operational Energy at U.S. Department of Navy, Chris Tindal aboard the USS Stethem.

Alternative fuels and energy efficient systems were on everybody’s lips when American ship USS Stethem, arrived alongside Fleet Base East, Sydney, this month.

Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer, welcomed the ship’s company and United States Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy for Management, Thomas Hicks, at an event onboard the destroyer.

Rear Admiral Mayer said since Australia signed a statement of cooperation agreement with the US Navy in 2012, the Royal Australian Navy had progressed from testing one Seahawk helicopter on biofuels during Exercise RIMPAC in 2012, to three warships in 2016.

“HMA Ships Ballarat, Warramunga and Canberra took more than 4.5 megalitres of biofuel during RIMPAC. This is a significant increase on what we first experienced in 2012,” Rear Admiral Mayer said.

“We look forward to continuing our great partnership with the US Navy and value the open and transparent sharing of information.”

One of the US Navy's carrier strike groups now deploys on alternative fuels, including nuclear power for the carrier and a blend of advanced biofuel made from beef fat and traditional petroleum for its escort ships. Stethem is a part of that group.

Mr Hicks said the US was at the vanguard of the energy revolution.

“This isn’t new for the US Navy. We transitioned from sail to coal, coal to oil. We have safely added nuclear power, getting it to the point that we can put it on ships and submarines. Most recently we are bringing in alternative fuels,” he said.

“At RIMPAC, we were very proud to have Australia take part in the initiative. Eight other nations did the same thing. This is now becoming the new normal, which we look at with a lot of pride and hope for what it means in the future.”

While biofuels were an essential part of the mix, Rear Admiral Mayer said Australia's Defence Science and Technology Group was looking at a range of energy efficient systems.

“We are looking at lighting, paint systems and engineering changes - anything that we can do to decrease our footprint on the earth and increase our economic and resource security, while making sure we are good caretakers of the maritime environment,” Rear Admiral Mayer said.

Part of the Department of Defence the group is the second largest public-funded research and development organisation in Australia.

RIMPAC is the world’s largest international maritime exercise and is conducted biennially in Hawaii. This year’s exercise, which concluded in early August, involved 26 nations, including Australia and the United States.

Stethem,
an Arleigh Burke-class Destroyer, is part of the US 7th Fleet forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan. The ship is on a routine patrol of the Indo-Asia Pacific.

During the visit, key personnel travelled to Brisbane to sign a Joint Statement of Cooperation between the US Navy and the Queensland Government regarding the development of alternative fuels.