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Navy gets 1,500 gallons of algae-based fuel from Solazyme

July 19, 2010 | 11:47 am

The U.S. Navy is 1,500 gallons closer to its goal to operate half of its fleet with renewable fuel by 2020.

The Navy said Monday that it had received the batch of algae-based jet fuel from Solazyme Inc., a South San Francisco company. Algae-based biofuel, which is considered to be more eco-friendly to produce than corn or sugarcane ethanol, has seen a boom in interest in recent years.

The firm won the contract with the Defense Department in September 2009 and confirmed that it met all of the Navy’s rigorous quality requirements after testing the fuel in an independent laboratory. The company is not disclosing the value of the contract.

Dubbed Solajet HRJ-5, the fuel supposedly results in an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional fossil fuels, Solazyme said.

The company has a separate contract with the Navy to research, develop and deliver 20,000 gallons of algae-based F-76 marine fuel in two weeks for use in military ships. Solazyme is also in talks with the Air Force for a possible contract.

The Navy has been trying out other biofuels over more than a dozen flights, including a test with a F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet in Maryland on April 22. The 45-minute Earth Day flight involved a blend of 50% conventional jet fuel and 50% camelina-based fuel.

The Navy put in a $2.7-million order with Sustainable Oils, which has operations in Washington and Montana, for 40,000 gallons.

Camelina is a domestic plant that grows well in difficult soil.

-- Tiffany Hsu