Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I see your Sec 526 and raise you Sec 844: House Tinkers with DOD Energy

In the middle of the last decade, the USAF toyed with the idea of making fuel. Specifically, they considered building a plant to convert coal to liquid fuel which would be mixed 50/50 with JP8. The plant was planned for Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. In early 2009 the plan was scrubbed because an “Air Force review cited possible conflicts with the wing's mission, including degradation of security in the vicinity of weapons storage area; interference with existing missile transportation operations; and issues with explosive safety arcs and operational flight safety.”. What really killed the program was Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. This section of the act requires any fuel used by the federal government to be no more carbon-intensive in processing than gas and oil. Because the methods used to convert natural gas and coal to fuel are much more carbon intensive than current conventional refining methods, those fuels got the ax. But, not so fast.
The current National Defense Authorization Act for 2012, under consideration by Congress (H.R. 1540) contains Section 844 which exempts the U.S. Military from Section 526 of EISA 2007. This exemption is to encourage the inclusion of carbon intense synthetic fuels in the Military’s mix of fuel alternatives. The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review determined that climate change is an “accelerant of instability.” It concluded that the military must “develop enterprise-wide climate change and energy strategies.” Congress would now be giving the Military permission to act contrary to its own best interest. Hopefully, having the ability to do a dumb thing and actually doing it are separate events. This effort has been seen as an attempt to slow the Military March to Green.
LTG(R) Norm Seips, USAF has come up on the net regarding this in a recent post. General Seips, former commander of the 12th Air Force can speak authoritatively on fuel use. As a command pilot with over 4,500 hours with a jet strapped to his back, he is a voice to which one should listen. His comments:
Just as the DOD's recent Quadrennial Defense Review predicted, the military's expansion into alternative fuels is stimulating interest and investment from the private sector. Young companies with promising technologies are looking to the military as a possible first customer. Their products could be in high demand on the global market as well, and could make a big difference in our trade balance.
This is a great opportunity for the military and the government to serve as a catalyst for a new age of innovation that could do wonders for reviving our economy, improving our national security and reducing global warming.
On the other hand, repealing Section 526 will sidetrack the process already underway at the Pentagon and simultaneously shatter any semblance of certainty in the commercial marketplace. Repeal would discourage innovation and force the military in to a deepening dependence on dirty fossil fuels with a giant price tag in lives and treasure.
Many are calling for the Military to be the catalyst for the growth of a “green economy”. The Military is engaged in this arena because it makes good sense from a security, economic and environmental perspective. The Military buys fuel; it does not make it. It should buy fuel that serves it well. That means locally procured at market prices. If that fuel decreases security, is too expense or has a negative environmental impact it should be off the menu. I agree with LTG Seips. Dan Nolan

Monday, May 23, 2011

Coalition Warfare for Energy

U.S. Army Research Development and Engineering Command is leading an effort along with the U.S. Army Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center to reduce energy use and provide alternative energy at a Navy forward operating base in Djibouti, Africa with the assistance of the Kansas Army National Guard. The concept is simple enough: solar shades with battery storage reduces the requirement for air conditioning and provides about 2 Kw of power. The charrette has been running since last July and has been so successful that the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa has decided to keep the equipment and add it to the property book. This is an example of an abbreviated acquisition process. From R&D to MTO&E in under a year is an impressive record. Now, I don’t think it is ACTUALLY on the Modified Table of Organization and Equipment, but I hope the folks at TRADOC are figuring out how to do that.

The effort has been nominated for the 33rd Annual Secretary of the Army Energy and Water Management Awards. Typically, these awards have been presented to Army installations energy and water efforts. It is time to recognize the efforts in operational energy. While the dollar savings are often the focus in these awards, this project and its potential savings can be measured in dollars and blood.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Energy Dollars in Austere Times: NDAA12 Markups

Recently the House Subcommittee on Readiness released their marks on H.R. 1540, the FY12 National Defense Authorization Bill with this press release. Energy was highlighted in the mark up. In their comments they said:

“The Committee continues to monitor DoD's energy use and encourage the Department to be more energy efficient, demonstrate a return of the energy investments, and enhance energy security. This year's NDAA includes several energy-related provisions for operation and maintenance, operational energy, and military installations.”

These provisions include:

  • Promoting energy-efficient technologies in logistics support contracts for contingency operations which will reduce demand for fuel and result in cost savings. We hope that this means that Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) contracts will now contain a provision rewarding contractors for energy efficiency. As long as fuel is a government furnished item (as it often is), there is no incentive to be more efficient in diesel powered generator electricity production or more efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Leasing energy inefficient structures means more money for contractors than if the government purchases and insulating those structures properly. If anyone has seen evidence that these provision are being included in LOGCAP contracts, please let me know. Happy to share that good news.
  • Requiring the Navy to meter piers to capture data when ships are docked in port, and authorizes $3.0 million for this effort. This is another case for “what can be measured can be managed”. A ship alongside routinely draws shore power and the Navy needs a way to determine the cost of that commodity.
  • Authorization for $30.4 million, an increase of $10.0 million for Operational Energy Capability Improvement. Presumably this is funding for the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs. By now the plans must have been written so this money should be headed for programs. The question is, whose programs? The only entity that is focused solely on operational energy is the USMC’s Expeditionary Energy Office and they are slated for $9.0 million for the Marine Corps' Expeditionary Forward Operating Base. Otherwise it is likely to go to the SPIDERS JCTD. We look forward to that see how those funds are distributed. If you want to know what is important, follow the money.
  • Authorization for $45.0 million, an increase of $15.0 million for the Installation Energy Test Bed. This is the program mention in a previous posting, focused on finding ways to decrease energy demand, develop smart distribution systems and increase the use of alternative and renewable energy at U.S. military installations worldwide. This program has great potential for industry participation if not consumed by government research and development agencies. Although sponsored by the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program and the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program, the hope it that the focus is on certification of commercial and government off the shelf technology.

Of course this is only the first step in a long process that may not reach the President’s desk until early 2011. In an era where ideology often trumps logic in the legislative process, what eventually makes it to DOD will be telling. The nearly $80 million represented above does not include the estimated $130 million in military construction dollars for the Energy Conservation Improvement Program. $210 million is a drop in the bucket compared with the overall budget, yet is does show a commitment by DOD to advance energy security. A much greater investment must be made by third party financing, if DOD and DOE can streamline the process and installation commanders can be convince it is economically responsible. All the stated energy goals and intent won’t accomplish this without strong leadership. Goals without responsibility, authority and accountability only set false expectations and create uncertainty. Dan Nolan

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Innovative Fund Mechanism Turns Trash into (Potential) Energy

Late last month, the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) cut the ribbon on a transportable, plasma waste to energy system at Hurlburt Field in the Florida Panhandle. Terry Yonkers, the ASAF for Installations, Environment and Logistics is quoted as saying, "This is the first waste-to-energy project of this technology to go into an air base. It has been a long time in the making.". I first saw this briefed in February 2009 and at that time the plan was to begin in FY08 and finish in FY10 at a cost of $6.5M. According to the article, the final cost was $7.4M, which, for a research and development experiment, is pretty close to the mark.

The system consumes about 11.5 tons of waste a day to include an intended 8.3 tons of domestic trash from Hurlburt Field itself. Burning at 5,000 degrees Celsius, the system can burn anything to include medical waste and its product is a useable syngas and a glassy rock that can be sold commercially. Although this is still an experimental facility, the ability to destroy any and all solid waste could save the base the cost of its recycling center and program.

The system has been widely billed as a waste to energy project, but for now is just a waste destruction process. It is hoped that it will be a net energy producer but has yet to demonstrate that capability. A simple gasification process with which I am familiar, uses engines specifically designed to operate only on syngas (as opposed to “sweetening” with natural gas) can produce 2 MW from a defined waste stream of 42 tons a day. The key is that that system produces electricity at a kilowatt per hour rate that is competitive with the local utility. That the Hurlburt system produces a net excess of energy is one thing; the cost per kilowatt hour will be another. We wish them luck on the experiment.

There are a couple of very interesting features to this story. One is was the driving force behind it and the other is how it was funded. The effort was sponsored by the Air Force, nurtured by the quiet professional of the Air Force Special Operations Command, but is truly the baby of the AFSOC Environmental Chief, Ron Omley. Mr. Omley has been championing this project for the past four years. Typically, these efforts are led by Directors of Public Works or Resource Efficiency Managers. This shows the inextricable link between energy and the environment and Mr. Omley lives this every day. Well done, Ron.

As for the funding, this project had a combination of Air Force Smart Operations 21 and OSD Comparative Technology Office funding. The CTO funding came from the Foreign Comparative Testing Program (FCTP). The FCTP’s mission is to “test items and technologies of our foreign allies and friends that have a high Technology Readiness Level (TRL) in order to satisfy valid defense requirements more quickly and economically.”. The Canadian origin of the system, built by PyroGenesis Canada, qualified it for these funds. This is an innovative way to fund an R&D project. I wonder where the system to which they are comparing it is operating. Pocatello, Idaho?

If DOD is to attain all of their very aggressive goals for demand reduction, smart distribution and renewable/alternative energy production in a dwindling resource environment, champions like Ron Omley and innovative funding like this must become the norm. Had this same project been done as an enhanced use lease, I dare say that we would just be finishing up the environmental impact statements instead of cutting the ribbon. I wonder if the ribbon was made of red tape? Dan Nolan

Acronym Decoder Ring

ASAF – Assistant Secretary of the Air Force

OSD - Office of the Secretary of Defense