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National Defense > Blog > Posts > U.S. Marines Find Power in Cotton Seeds
U.S. Marines Find Power in Cotton Seeds
NEW ORLEANS — Two months ago, a Marine Corps forward operating base in Afghanistan bought 55 gallons of cotton seed oil from a local farmer. Troops used the oil to power generators on base. It meant less fuel that marines had to transport along dangerous convoy routes to the base, and it injected some cash into the rural economy.

Through experiments in theater and changes in culture, the Marine Corps is trying to make this kind of activity common practice and even use cotton seed oil in ground combat vehicles, said Robert Lusardi, deputy program manager for light armored vehicles at Marine Corps Systems Command.

“What we use in terms of fuel and what we use in terms of energy in Afghanistan is ridiculous,” he told the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual energy symposium.

On average, one marine is killed or wounded for every 50 convoys that bring in fuel and bottled water. While deployed in January, Capt. Brandon Newell met a sergeant whose vehicle had been blown up by an improvised explosive device three times in just seven months. “So if I can take a couple of carriers out of a convoy, I save marines’ lives,” Lusardi said.

Marines use about 200,000 gallons of JP-8 fuel each day at a cost of about $7.05 a gallon. They spend about $154 million each year just to power generators on forward operating bases.

Newell is overseeing the Marine Corps’ Experimental Forward Operating Base, or Ex-FOB. The idea is to send troops into theater with off-the-shelf technologies and see what works. The feedback will be used to shape requirements for what the Corps eventually will want to buy.

“It’s an opportunity for us to see what industry has to offer, what’s available and what impact it may have,” Newell said. “This is an opportunity for us to leverage and encourage innovation … and do it quickly.”

Previous Ex-FOBs resulted in procurements of solar blankets used to recharge batteries, radios and  laptops; LED lights; tent liners that reduce thermal demand; and a solar cell used to power generators.
Solar panels meant to hang from light poles were not as effective.

As a result of initial experiments, the Marine Corps now has in place a $40 million accelerated plan that will provide green technology to 10 different battalions spread across 100 locations in Afghanistan.
The next Ex-FOB event will take place in August. The Corps has received 60 submissions from companies, some of which will receive invitations in June to demonstrate their technologies in hopes of having their products sent to Afghanistan. An area of focus this time around is allowing vehicles to idle efficiently, Newell said.

The Marine Corps in February released an energy strategy. It is now finalizing staffing for an initial capabilities document. The Ex-FOB will help the Corps decide where to direct research and development money, Newell said. It is one more step toward the service’s goal of requiring 50 percent less fuel on the battlefield by 2025, he said. Newell remembers pushing toward Baghdad in 2003, when his unit had to stop and stay put on the side of the road for four days while waiting for logistics resupply. Though missions have changed over the course of a decade, the energy situation is just as dire, he said.

Ideally, a Marine expeditionary unit should be able to sustain itself for 15 days, and a brigade for 30 days. “That’s what we feel we are losing touch with in the way that we have been fighting these past 10 years,” Newell said.

Ex-FOBs are expected to become annual events.


Re: U.S. Marines Find Power in Cotton Seeds

Reading a post like this hits home for me. It is incumbent upon all of us – the services, DoD, industry – to continuously find ways to be less dependent on fuel, to be more energy efficient and to find more ways to keep troops out of harm’s way. Like many of the options outlined in this post, hybrid electric propulsion systems are another step in the right direction. Hybrid vehicles increase fuel efficiency and decrease the size of fuel convoys, which can help save our troops’ lives. Hybrid propulsion is proven, mature and ready for military combat vehicles, as I discussed in this other National Defense article:  

--Mark Signorelli, VP/GM Weapon Systems, BAE Systems
Mark Signorelli at 5/13/2011 4:29 PM

Re: U.S. Marines Find Power in Cotton Seeds

Last month I was told by the Col in the U.S. who is in charge of the Marine  Expeditionary Energy office in Virgina that they were shutting down this program  because  "He did not want to drive up the price of cotton".  A regional government in Afghanistan has pledged 30,000 acres of land for the purpose of growing Camelina.  Camelina oil can be used to run diesel generators as SVO.  We have been trying to get the U.S. military to use locally grown biofuels since 2006 then Lt. Col. Kelly from Centcom forwarded our concept to the field, nothing was done.  We met resistance from the State Dept., USAID (who would rather plant Pomegranates that have to be flown to market at a cost of 10 time their value.) and USDA who claimed that it was not economically feasible as DESC was buying jet fuel for $2.76 per gal. completely leaving out the cost (human and monetary) of transporting it to the field. What is not mentioned in this article is that fuel contractors often pay protection fees of as much as $5,000 per tanker, Nato money that goes directly to fuel the insurgency the fuel is meant to combat.  Some reports have estimated that the Taliban makes more from protection fees than from Opium.  Calls to Sharon Burke's exec.  (Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans) suggested by DESC have not even been returned let alone any support being provided.  Her chief scientist did not even know what DESC was.
Bob Goetzman at 5/14/2011 8:44 AM

Re: U.S. Marines Find Power in Cotton Seeds

Realty Check

-----Original Message-----
From: Sadlier Maj Sean M (RC(SW) E20 LNO)
Sent: Saturday, May 14, 2011 17:38
To: 'Bob
Cc: Thompson Col David RC(SW) II MEF FWD SPSTAFF S&T Officer; Hamilton Col Christopher N RC(SW) II MEF FWD G9 Development OIC; Jackson MGySgt Steven A RC(SW) II MEF FWD G9 Chief/CA; Escalante Col Yori R RC(SW) II MEF FWD G9 AC/S; Greathouse 1stLt Megan K RC(SW) II MEF FWD PAO Media Officer; Earl CWO2 Larry R RC(SW) II MEF FWD G4 Bulk Fuel Officer; Hilbun Maj Gordon; Lathery CWO3 William; Hessler Col Mark C RC(SW) II MEF FWD G9 Deputy; Borland Capt Stuart GBR RC(SW) II MEF FWD G9 Deputy Chief; Wolfrom LtCol Paul RC(SW) II MEF FWD Civil Information Management Officer
Subject: RE: Civil Affairs request

Mr Goetzman,

The Director, Capabilities Development Directorate (CDD), Combat Development and Integration (CD&I), signed a Statement of Need (April 2010) that tasked Marine Corp Systems Command (MCSC) to conduct a proof-of-principle.  MCSC executed generator tests using a variety of vegetable oils mixed with Diesel at Aberdeen, MD last year before Stability Operations (C-9), Regional Command (Southwest)  [RC(SW)] and the Expeditionary Energy Office (E2O) collaborated to execute a proof-of-principle aboard Camp Leatherneck using cotton seed oil purchased from the Bost Cotton Mill, Lashkar Gah.  We mixed and burned B-20 i.e. 20% cotton seed oil and 80% Jet Propulsion-8 (JP-8) fuel, in a 10 kW Tactical Quiet Generator (TQG) over several months.  During March of this year, the proof-of-principle came to an end.

The Marine Corps is not going to use biofuel or biodiesel in Afghanistan.  DFID, USDA, et al are still pursuing the concept to develop a biodiesel capability owned and operated by Afghans.  The Marine Corps does not possess the authorization from the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) - Executive Agent for Department of Defense regarding fuel used in military equipment - to use biofuel or biodiesel.  Additionally, the Marine Corps does not possess the trained personnel, infrastructure, distribution, and equipment requirements to support the open purchase of cotton seed oil in lieu of a portion of JP-8 burned in military generators i.e. USMC spearheaded development of biofuel industry in Afghanistan.

Semper Fidelis,
Maj Sean Sadlier
Expeditionary Energy LNO
Camp Leatherneck, RC (SW)
Bob Goetzman at 5/14/2011 11:23 AM

Re: U.S. Marines Find Power in Cotton Seeds

good article
Chantel at 6/22/2011 4:40 PM

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