NOAA’S ARC

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For more than 15 years, the Na­tional Oceano­graphic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NOAA) has been re­search­ing and us­ing B100 biodiesel in a num­ber of its own fleets as part of thier Green Ships Ini­tia­tive. NOAA’s re­search has con­cluded that B100 biodiesel re­duces un­burned hy­dro­car­bons by al­most 80 per­cent in com­par­i­son with fos­sil diesel, as­sum­ing 100-per­cent re­cy­cled oil. Re­search has shown that restau­rants in the United States pro­duce only about 300 mil­lion gal­lons of waste cook­ing oil an­nu­ally, and the com­mer­cial U.S. marine in­dus­try alone con­sumed 2.25 bil­lion gal­lons of diesel in 2012.

This short­fall lim­its the uni­ver­sal adop­tion of biodiesel. Mean­while, com­mer­cially made and ASTM-cer­ti­fied biodiesel is no longer as avail­able from marine fu­el­ing sta­tions as it was ear­lier in the 2000s. In a fur­ther ef­fort to de­crease emis­sions and op­er­at­ing costs, in­ter­na­tional marine emis­sion reg­u­la­tions have caused com­mer­cial ship­ping com­pa­nies to shift to the use of liqui­fied nat­u­ral gas (LNG), re­duc­ing the use of dirty, heavy bunker and diesel.

In think­ing about a pos­si­ble endgame for clean marine propul­sion, in the past sev­eral years NOAA has been mod­i­fy­ing marine diesels to run on ei­ther B100 or com­pressed nat­u­ral gas. They are look­ing at evolv­ing this pro­gram into dual-fuel B100 and hy­dro­gen diesels that could ac­tu­ally clean the sea­wa­ter upon which they float, at least marginally. This could be the holy grail of a clean marine propul­sion strat­egy that re­tains the nec­es­sary long range and con­tin­u­ing use of ex­ist­ing ma­chin­ery.In con­cert with the Navy, Coast Guard, and other fed­eral agen­cies, NOAA has con­ducted ma­jor test­ing and tri­als that have doc­u­mented 20 to 40 per­cent lower op­er­at­ing costs, much longer in­jec­tor life­times, over­all bet­ter per­for­mance, ex­tended en­gine life, sub­stan­tially lower emis­sions of ni­trous ox­ide (NOx) and an 85 per­cent re­duc­tion of the car­cino­gens that are in diesel No. 2 ex­haust, which the EPA and World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion last year de­clared to be as dan­ger­ous as se­cond-hand smoke.

Op­po­site: Pre-build boat­yard doo­dles of Ama’s cruis­ing fu­ture. Above: The au­thor hap­pily pi­lots Ama through the wa­ters of the Pa­cific Northwest. Below: Ama on ar­rival in Van­cou­ver Is­land’s pic­turesque Tele­graph Cove— a peren­nial fa­vorite of both the au­tho

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