Case Study / Alternative Fuel Testing

power gen icon

Case Study / Alternative Fuel Testing

U.S. Navy charts
new course with
Fairbanks Morse

Successful testing on alternative fuel engines provides Navy with long-term energy security

power gen icon

A long-time supplier to the Navy, Fairbanks Morse has marshalled its unique combination of resources to be the only engine manufacturer conducting alternative fuel testing on its own engines in support of the United States Navy’s Energy Goals Initiative.

Working with Life Cycle Engineering, Inc., the company under contract for part of the Navy’s alternative fuel testing program, Fairbanks Morse has developed test protocols and tested the viability of several alternative fuels for use in two of its engines—the Opposed Piston (OP) and the Colt-Pielstick PA6B.

FME Uniquely Qualified for Testing Assignment

"Fairbanks Morse has been able to complete one-third of the full-scale diesel engine testing for this program because of its unique combination of engine design experience, testing prowess and facilities large enough to handle testing of the Colt-Pielstick PA6B—one of the largest engines in the U.S. Navy’s fleet," said Tom Risley, director, energy programs for Life Cycle Engineering.

The testing objective is to qualify alternative fuels that will meet all of the Navy’s current fuel specifications for chemical properties and performance requirements, making them suitable as "drop-in fuels" that could be used in the fleet without making costly changes to the engines or to the vast infrastructure that stores and transports fuel supplies.

The U.S. Navy is a large consumer of petroleum fuels. Identifying viable alternatives supports greater energy security. Alternative fuels reduce vulnerability to supply interruptions created by dependence on foreign oil, and reduce consumption of finite petroleum resources, while increasing use of renewable fuels.

Renewable Fuel Tested Successfully on OP Engine

Two of the fuels commonly used by the Navy are F-76 (diesel) and JP-5 (jet fuel). Fairbanks Morse has completed testing on three separate alternative F-76 biofuel blends on the OP engine and one alternative JP-5 biofuel blend on the Colt-Pielstick PA6B engine. In fact, the first alternative fuel tested on the OP and the one completed on the Colt-Pielstick PA6B are now included in the respective fuel specifications for F-76 and JP-5. These fuels are classified as hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA) fuels that can come from algae, plants and other renewable sources. The other two biofuels tested on the OP were derived from plant sugars and wood. The Colt-Pielstick PA6B engine is currently being tested on a blended fuel derived from alcohol, known as Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ).

Thorough Test Protocol Delivers Reliable Results

The test protocol for one alternative fuel on one engine requires three to six months to complete. The test begins with disassembling, inspecting, measuring and photographing the engine’s fuel system to establish a baseline. The engine is then put through a series of tests using a currently qualified petroleum product. These include cold starts, transient response, emergency starts, fuel consumption and emissions performance. Next, the engine is put through the same series of tests operating on the alternative fuel, along with a series of 12 cycle tests consisting of 96 hours of endurance tests, after which the engine’s fuel system is again disassembled, inspected, measured for wear and photographed to determine any physical changes to the components. A report on the findings is then prepared for Life Cycle Engineering.

"This is ideal, as we know our engines better than anyone else," said Linda Rodriguez, Fairbanks Morse project manager. "It is also a great opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge about how our engines perform with alternative fuels, which will only become increasingly relevant."

Colt Pielstick PA6B

Delivering security to the U.S. Navy

Setting the standard for unmatched reliability and leading innovation, the long-stroke Colt-Pielstick PA6B delivers 25% more power than the previous generation engine. With a wide power range and long maintenance intervals, this solution is also available with Sequential Turbo Charging (STC) to operate efficiency at full power and in low-speed, high-torque environments.

  • Exceptional fuel efficiency
  • Increased reliability and safety
  • Simplified installation
  • Low emissions

Power Range
PA6B 4,200 – 7,000 kW
PA6B STC 4,860 – 8100 kW