Monthly Archives: September 2012

Fueling the Fleet, Navy Looks to the Seas

USS Fife, a Spruce Class destroyer powered by gas turbines

Refueling U.S. Navy vessels, at sea and underway, is a costly endeavor in terms of logistics, time, fiscal constraints and threats to national security and sailors at sea.

In Fiscal Year 2011, the U.S. Navy Military Sea Lift Command, the primary supplier of fuel and oil to the U.S. Navy fleet, delivered nearly 600 million gallons of fuel to Navy vessels underway, operating 15 fleet replenishment oilers around the globe.

Refueling of Naval Vessel Refueling Navy vessels at sea can prove in many ways to be a costly endeavor. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) is developing the chemistry for producing jet fuel from renewable resources in theater. The process envisioned would catalytically convert CO2 and H2 directly to liquid hydrocarbon fuel used as JP-5.

From Seawater to CO2

Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are developing a process to extract carbon dioxide (CO2) and produce hydrogen gas (H2) from seawater, subsequently catalytically converting the CO2 and H2 into jet fuel by a gas-to-liquids process.

“The potential payoff is the ability to produce JP-5 fuel stock at sea reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery with no environmental burden and increasing the Navy’s energy security and independence,” says research chemist, Dr. Heather Willauer.

NRL has successfully developed and demonstrated technologies for the recovery of CO2 and the production of H2 from seawater using an electrochemical acidification cell, and the conversion of CO2 and H2 to hydrocarbons (organic compounds consisting of hydrogen and carbon) that can be used to produce jet fuel.

“The reduction and hydrogenation of CO2 to form hydrocarbons is accomplished using a catalyst that is similar to those used for Fischer-Tropsch reduction and hydrogenation of carbon monoxide,” adds Willauer. “By modifying the surface composition of iron catalysts in fixed-bed reactors, NRL has successfully improved CO2 conversion efficiencies up to 60 percent.”

A Renewable Resource

CO2 is an abundant carbon (C) resource in the air and in seawater, with the concentration in the ocean about 140 times greater than that in air. Two to three percent of the CO2 in seawater is dissolved CO2 gas in the form of carbonic acid, one percent is carbonate, and the remaining 96 to 97 percent is bound in bicarbonate. If processes are developed to take advantage of the higher weight per volume concentration of CO2 in seawater, coupled with more efficient catalysts for the heterogeneous catalysis of CO2 and H2, a viable sea-based synthetic fuel process can be envisioned. “With such a process, the Navy could avoid the uncertainties inherent in procuring fuel from foreign sources and/or maintaining long supply lines,” Willauer said.

NRL has made significant advances developing carbon capture technologies in the laboratory. In the summer of 2009 a standard commercially available chlorine dioxide cell and an electro-deionization cell were modified to function as electrochemical acidification cells. Using the novel cells both dissolved and bound CO2 were recovered from seawater by re-equilibrating carbonate and bicarbonate to CO2 gas at a seawater pH below 6. In addition to CO2, the cells produced H2 at the cathode as a by-product.

Electrochemical Acidification Carbon Capture Skid Electrochemical Acidification Carbon Capture Skid. The acidification cell was mounted onto a portable skid along with a reverse osmosis unit, power supply, pump, carbon dioxide recovery system, and hydrogen stripper to form a carbon capture system [dimensions of 63″ x 36″ x 60″].
(U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)

These completed studies assessed the effects of the acidification cell configuration, seawater composition, flow rate, and current on seawater pH levels. The data were used to determine the feasibility of this approach for efficiently extracting large quantities of CO2 from seawater. From these feasibility studies NRL successfully scaled-up and integrated the carbon capture technology into an independent skid to process larger volumes of seawater and evaluate the overall system design and efficiencies.

The major component of the carbon capture skid is a three-chambered electrochemical acidification cell. This cell uses small quantities of electricity to exchange hydrogen ions produced at the anode with sodium ions in the seawater stream. As a result, the seawater is acidified. At the cathode, water is reduced to H2 gas and sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is formed. This basic solution may be re-combined with the acidified seawater to return the seawater to its original pH with no additional chemicals. Current and continuing research using this carbon capture skid demonstrates the continuous efficient production of H2 and the recovery of up to 92 percent of CO2 from seawater.

Located at NRL’s Center for Corrosion Science & Engineering facility, Key West, Fla., (NRLKW) the carbon capture skid has been tested using seawater from the Gulf of Mexico to simulate conditions that will be encountered in an actual open ocean process for capturing CO2 from seawater and producing H2 gas. Currently NRL is working on process optimization and scale-up. Once these are completed, initial studies predict that jet fuel from seawater would cost in the range of $3 to $6 per gallon to produce.

How it Works: CO2 + H2 = Jet Fuel

NRL has developed a two-step process in the laboratory to convert the CO2 and H2 gathered from the seawater to liquid hydrocarbons. In the first step, an iron-based catalyst has been developed that can achieve CO2 conversion levels up to 60 percent and decrease unwanted methane production from 97 percent to 25 percent in favor of longer-chain unsaturated hydrocarbons (olefins).

In the second step these olefins can be oligomerized (a chemical process that converts monomers, molecules of low molecular weight, to a compound of higher molecular weight by a finite degree of polymerization) into a liquid containing hydrocarbon molecules in the carbon C9-C16 range, suitable for conversion to jet fuel by a nickel-supported catalyst reaction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Late Season Boating – Be Prepared

Perhaps it’s TOO late

The Coast Guard stresses that it is essential for anyone engaged in water activities this time of year, to be cognizant of the risk of falling overboard or capsizing and the importance of being properly prepared for survival if the need occurs.

“The best protection would be a full dry suit with life jacket,” recommended Al Johnson,the recreational boating specialist for the First Coast Guard District in Boston. “This would be followed by a wet suit under protective clothing with a life jacket and, finally and at the minimum, protective clothing and a life jacket.”

Additionally, Johnson recommends boaters carry a hand-held VHF radio, a cell phone in a water-tight bag, a head lamp, a strobe light, a wool hat, neoprene gloves, signal flares and a signal mirror.

“The waters are cold and getting colder,” said Johnson, “For the average person, the debilitating shock of sudden immersion can be fatal. The important thing is simply to be prepared and to be properly attired for survival.”

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Fall Boating Tips

Since we are officially into the Fall of 2012, we thought we would give a few tips or reminders.

  1.  Prepare to float. You are required to have a life preserver you should want to wear it.
  2. Think survival. Unpack and repack your survival suit and put it where it will be handy at a moment’s notice.
  3. Repel water. Find your raingear, replace old gloves, and break out the dry bags and cases.
  4. Crank the heat. Give your fire extinguisher a good shaking and give the boat heater a trial run.
  5. Cover it up. Protect your boat from the elements with a carefully chosen boat cover that will perform well in your climate.
  6. Haul it out. Get your boat out of the water for a quick bottom paint and maintenance check.
  7. Upgrade it. What’s on your wish list? Think function and fun like new electrical panels, steering wheels, and underwater lights.

For all your boating need check out Go2Marine online.

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Staying Safe in a Duck Boat

With many duck hunters anxiously preparing for the season we want to remind people to make sure they pack the one thing that could save their lives – their life jackets.

“We want all hunters to come back to shore safely. However, the lack of flotation devices is still one of the most common law violations among waterfowl hunters, and the most common cause of duck hunter deaths.” According to Tim Smalley with the Minnesota DNR whose waterfowl season opens in just a few days.  Minnesota made life jackets mandatory in 1988. Thirteen hunters have drowned in boating accidents since that time. “While 13 deaths is 13 too many, before life jackets were mandated, three to six hunters died in duck boat accidents nearly every season,” Smalley said.

According to national statistics, more hunters die every year from cold water shock, hypothermia and drowning than firearms mishaps.

The law requires a readily accessible U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket for every person on duck boats. Plus, for boats 16-feet and longer, one U.S. Coast Guard approved flotation seat cushion must be on board to throw to someone in distress. Seat cushions are no longer approved as primary flotation devices, however. Everyone on the boat needs a wearable personal flotation device of the proper size and type.

Life jackets made with the waterfowler in mind are available in camouflage colors. According to water safety experts, having a life jacket doesn’t matter if it’s stuffed in a decoy sack when the accident occurs. “You just don’t have time,” Smalley said. “Trying to put on a life jacket during a boating accident would be like trying to buckle a seat belt during a car crash.”

The DNR discourages hunters from wearing hip boots or waders in the boat due to safety concerns. Hunters have drowned while trying to take their waders off after they have fallen into the water or their boat has capsized. That releases any trapped air in the boots and at the same time binds the victim’s feet together so they can’t kick to stay afloat,” Smalley said. “However, if you do wear that sort of foot gear and suddenly enter the water, by pulling your knees up to your chest, air trapped in the waders or hip boots can act as a flotation device. You should practice that maneuver in warm shallow water before you need to do it in an emergency.”

The DNR offers these water safety tips for duck hunters:

  • Wear a life jacket to and from the blind; there are now life jackets available for around $40 with mesh in the upper body that allow hunters to shoulder a gun but still offer protection from cold water.
  • Don’t overload the boat; take two trips if necessary.
  • Learn how to float in waders and hip boats or don’t wear them in the boat.
  • Stay near shore and avoid crossing large expanses of open water, especially in bad weather.
  • Share trip plans with someone, advise them to call authorities if traveling party does return on schedule.
  • In case of capsizing or swamping, stay with the boat; even when filled with water, it will provide some flotation and is more likely to be seen by potential rescuers.

“If you are near enough to a cell phone tower, it’s not a bad idea to bring your cell phone along in a waterproof, zipper lock bag to call for help if you get into trouble,” Smalley advised. “You can use the phone without removing it from the bag.”

The DNR has a free publication about waterfowl hunting boat safety called “Prescription for Duck Hunters.” It is available by calling the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367.

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Do Not Try This at Home!

This amazing trick was done by trained professionals. Do Not Try at Home.

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States Go After Visiting Cruisers

Boaters Overstaying Their Welcome
Could Find Themselves in Hot Water with the Tax Man

According to BoatUS, staying too long in one place can ruin a good thing. At least that’s the case with boaters making lengthy journeys, who are finding themselves targets of cash-hungry states when they stay too long and are subject to various taxes. But how can boaters prevent overstaying their welcome? Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) has online state tax information at www.BoatUS.com/gov/states that will help keep them on the right side of the law and out of hot water with the taxman.

In most states, a privately-owned recreational boat must be registered in the state where it is principally used, and any sales and use taxes paid to that state. A problem arises when the boat leaves this principal-use state and enters a new one, for a long visit, extended cruise or lengthy repairs. This could include “Snowbirds” – boaters who head south each winter in search of warmer climates.

BoatUS says boaters may be subject to various sales, use, excise, or property taxes when they remain in one location for a consecutive number of days, or over-stay their visit for a certain number of aggregate days per year. This “grace period” is often 60 to 90 days but as little as 30 days in two states (CO, NH). Also, if the principal state’s sales and use tax is not comparable to the tax in the state the boat is visiting, the second state can levy their own tax making the boat owner liable for the difference.

To help boaters understand this issue, BoatUS’ online map at http://www.BoatUS.com/gov/states highlights state sales and property tax rates with links to state tax departments, as well as registration information and “grace periods”.

In the past, BoatUS has heard about tax authorities walking the docks, inspecting marina records and aggressively enforcing tax codes. “We believe boaters should pay their fair share of taxes, and travel to other states with their eyes open about timelines and potential tax assessments,” said BoatUS President Margaret Podlich. “Boaters should keep record keeping such as log entries, marina and fuel receipts or repair contracts while traveling. These documents are critical for boaters to keep, and are often the only way to fight an unjust tax bill,” added Podlich.

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Cell Phone vs. VHF Radio

VHF RadioVHF Handheld radioThe Coast Guard does not advocate cell phones as a substitute for the regular maritime radio distress and safety systems recognized by the Federal Communications Commission and the International Radio Regulations — particularly VHF maritime radio. However, cell phones can have a place on board as an added measure of safety.

CELL PHONE LIMITATIONS IN AN EMERGENCY

Cell phones generally cannot provide ship to ship safety communications or communications with rescue vessels. If you make a distress call on a cell phone, only the one party you call will be able to hear you.

Most cell phones are designed for a land-based service. Their coverage offshore is limited, and may change without notice. Most everyone has experienced communications out to about 25 miles at times. Yet at other times they could not get through to a land based phone inside of 10 miles from shore. This might well create a communications problem in the event of an emergency at sea.

Locating a cell caller is hard to do. If you don’t know precisely where you are, the Coast Guard will have difficulty finding your location on the water.

CELL PHONE / VHF MARINE RADIO COMPARISON

Cell phones do provide the convenience of simple, easy-to-use, inexpensive, private and generally reliable telephone service to home, office, automobile or other locations. Placing a shore-to-ship call to someone with a cell telephone is especially convenient. However, you usually cannot use your cell phone outside the United States, and you may need a special agreement with your carrier to use it outside that carrier’s local service area.

VHF marine radios were designed with safety in mind. If you are in distress, calls can be received not only by the Coast Guard but by ships which may be in position to give immediate assistance. A VHF marine radio also helps ensure that storm warnings and other urgent marine information broadcasts are received. The Coast Guard announces these broadcasts on VHF channel 16. Timely receipt of such information may save your life. Additionally, your VHF marine radio can be used anywhere in the United States or around the world.

On VHF radios, however, conversations are not private and individual boats cannot be assigned a personal phone number. If you are expecting a call, channel 16 or the marine operator’s working channel must be continually monitored.

SHOULD YOU RELY ON A CELL PHONE EXCLUSIVELY?

Actually there is no comparison between cell phones and VHF marine radio. They normally provide different services. The cell phone is best used for what it is, an on-board telephone — a link with shore-based telephones. A VHF marine radio is intended for communication with other ships or marine installations — and a powerful ally in time of emergency. If you have a cell telephone, by all means take it aboard. If you are boating very far off shore, a cell phone is no substitute for a VHF radio. But, if you are within cell range, it may provide an additional means of communication.

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