The Army is (Still) Going Green

How one military installation closes the loop on energy security by producing, using biodiesel
By Bryan Sims | August 16, 2011

Facetiously, Matt Roberts envisions the day when the U.S. Army might change its current slogan from “An Army of One” to “Be All That You Can Be, And Be Green Doing It.” Roberts, vice president of marketing for Springboard Biodiesel LLC, has reason to boast since his California-based firm sold a 50-gallon BioPro 190 biodiesel processing unit to the Florida Army National Guard’s Camp Blanding Joint Training Center near Starke, Fla., in January 2010. 

“The military is just a huge target market for us and we would love to have a BioPro on every military base on the globe,” Roberts tells Biodiesel Magazine. Springboard Biodiesel is responsible for more than 6 million gallons of annual installed capacity spread across 14 countries, Roberts says.

The feeling is mutual, according to Jessika Blersch, sustainability coordinator for Camp Blanding Joint Training Center. Using Springboard’s processor, she says, has allowed Camp Blanding to achieve what its biofuel program was originally set out to accomplish when it first launched in January 2010: offset fuel costs with a cleaner-burning fuel by decreasing dependence on fossil-based diesel and increase energy security. Both objectives fall in line with federal and state orders. The program is just now coming out of its pilot project stage.

The camp collects used cooking oil for free from the camp’s large drums at the Consolidated Dining Facility. It's transported to a maintenance facility where it’s converted into B100 so that the base’s maintenance vehicles, such as mowers and tractors, can pull up to a maintenance facility to fill their tanks on B20. But the amount of fuel that  can be produced ultimately depends on the number of vehicles on the installation that can use the biofuel.

“I’ve noticed from the consumption that a lot of them are beginning to incorporate more biodiesel as they fill up their tanks,” Blersch says, adding that Camp Blanding has produced an estimated 1,100 gallons since the program bought Springboard’s processor last year for the program, at a cost of only 67 cents per gallon, roughly. “It’s becoming more of a trusted product,” she says.

In addition to the camp’s maintenance fleet, a school on the camp designated two school buses to run on B20. Also, forestry personnel use biodiesel during burn mixes when conducting prescribed burns on camp. While biodiesel may be produced and offered exclusively at Camp Blanding, plans are to offer biodiesel to additional users outside the gate who may want to reduce fuel costs and use a cleaner burning fuel, Blersch adds.

As for Roberts, he’s proud to see America’s finest take the lead by implementing biodiesel initiatives like Camp Blanding. And he’s optimistic more will follow its example. “We’ve been trying to get the attention of the military to use our equipment for some time now and we’ve found it to be a challenge,” Roberts says, “but we are very pleased that Camp Blanding has taken the initiative to start doing this.”

—Bryan Sims

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