Navy Retrofitting Ships With Fuel-Saving Technologies

By Grace V. Jean
WASHINGTON NAVY YARD — The soaring cost of oil is prompting the Navy to adopt fuel-saving measures that can be retrofitted onto different ship classes.

The Navy is interested in mature technologies that can be introduced right away, says Petter Kristiansen, program manager of the Fleet Readiness Research and Development Program at Naval Sea Systems Command.

The service last year consumed 38.8 million barrels of oil, says Lt. Clay Doss, a Navy spokesman. Initiatives ranging from efficient light bulbs and propeller coatings to steam boiler controls and hull hydrodynamics improvements could help reduce the Navy’s fuel
consumption by 1 to 6 percent.

Kristiansen’s office planned to begin evaluating such technologies this summer. If they pass muster, he will recommend them to the fleet for installation.

One of the candidates is an online water wash system to clean gas turbine engines aboard cruisers and destroyers. A crank-wash system currently accomplishes the job, but it is a manually-intensive process that emits detergents and can only clean when the engine is turned off.

“We’re looking to automate that process and reduce the manpower and labor necessary to do that,” says Kristiansen.

Other initiatives are aimed at curbing amphibious ships’ fuel consumption. For the LHA-1 class and the LHD-1 class, the team plans to test new boiler controls that automatically determine the proper air mixture to burn fuel more efficiently. The program also is looking at coating the ships’ propellers with a commercially-available product that inhibits the growth of marine life.

Kristiansen says the team plans to revisit the use of a stern flap — an appendage on the aft end of a ship — to help amphibious ships glide through the water more easily. “It reduces the drag on the ship because there’s a little bit of lift to it,” he says. “It’s worked well on combatants.” When the technology was first implemented on surface combatants, oil was $30 per barrel, so the measure was not cost-effective. Now that fuel costs are substantially higher, that flap may provide some savings. Kristiansen expects to start seeing results of the testing by the middle of next year.

The program office is scouting projects for 2009. Some of the technologies include underwater hull coatings, LED lights, electronic fuel injection systems and steering stability improvements.

If selected, the light initiative will be tested aboard an LSD-41 class amphibious ship. Under the proposal, about 1,000 to 1,200 bulbs would be installed.

The steering stability improvement also would be tested aboard an amphibious vessel. While underway, warships have a tendency to drift and sailors often must reset the rudder, which is an inefficient method of compensating for the steering problem. Kristiansen says one of the proposals under consideration is a skeg, an appendage to the bottom of a ship’s keel to help improve steering stability.

This is not the Navy’s first major attempt at fuel savings. In the 1980s and 1990s, the service funded a similar program. But when oil prices leveled out, the Navy closed it down. Current funding for the fuel-savings program is about $4 million a year through the next four years.

Topics: Energy, Expeditionary Warfare, Shipbuilding, Surface Ships, Navy News

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