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Flying High on Biodiesel | Soy Biodiesel, Asphalt Sealer Find Favor with Air Force


The U.S. military uses more than 360 million gallons of diesel fuel per year – which means there’s huge potential for soy biodiesel to be used in America’s military fleet as a renewable, earth-friendly fuel alternative. And, some branches of the military already have begun that conversion to biodiesel.

The Air Force used 4 million gallons of biodiesel in 2008 and now boasts 63 biodiesel stations – the most in the Department of Defense. The military’s efforts to use more biodiesel also helped earn three White House Closing-the-Circle (CTC) awards in 2009. The awards are given annually to recognize outstanding examples of environmental stewardship by federal employees and facilities. Recipients included:

  • Jeffrey Grages, U.S. Air Force Vehicle and Equipment Management Support Office, who earned a CTC Award in the alternative fuel and fuel conservation in transportation category, in part for increasing the Air Force’s biodiesel use.
  • Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, which made use of a B20 blend of biodiesel mandatory in all diesel-powered vehicles on the base, earned an award in the green purchasing category. Robins purchased 173,000 gal. of biodiesel in 2008. The base continues to look for ways to grow even greener, evaluating biobased hydraulic fluids, engine oil, antifreeze, solvents and cleaners.
  • The 179th Airlift Wing of the U.S. Air National Guard in Ohio won an honorable mention in the green purchasing category for its use of B20 in almost all of its diesel vehicles.


On the runway

But the military is using more than just biodiesel. Tyndall Air Force base in Florida is also successfully using RePLAY, a soy-based asphalt sealer and preservation agent from BioSpan Technologies, Inc., on their runway surfaces.

RePLAY, which is 88% biobased, is touted as a proactive and cost-effective way of maintaining pavement. According to BioSpan, RePLAY can achieve a “perpetual road” if applied in the first two years of the pavement’s life and reapplied every three to five years.

The soy-based product penetrates up to 1.5 in. into the pavement, introducing 15% new polymers that repel moisture and strengthen and restore existing pavement, all without a significant impact on skid resistance. Applying the sealer is about one-tenth the cost of reconstructive overlays.

Replay has benefits for the environment, too. A Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability analysis confirmed that RePLAY reduces hazardous CO2 gases in the environment.

With petroleum costs rising, BioSpan anticipates seeing pavement preservation with soy-based products like RePLAY expanding from runways to use on pedestrian walkways and parking lots in the future.

Of the efforts to adopt environmentally conscious, renewable products, Marty Ross, vice-chair of United Soybean Board’s new uses committee says, “It’s very encouraging to see the federal government using soy-based products. Biobased products can play a big part in improving our nation’s sustainability. And the federal government’s use of biobased products can help show how well these products work, their competiveness and how easy it is to make our world a better place to live.”  

Boasting about biodiesel

  • The value of biodiesel adds a huge bonus to the soybean industry according to a study funded by the United Soybean Board (USB) and soybean checkoff. The study indicates that U.S. soybean farmers received an additional $2.5 billion in returns over the last four years due to the biodiesel industry’s demand for soybean oil. This demand added up to 25¢/bu. in support for soybean prices.
  • Soy biodiesel returns 4.5 more energy than what is required to produce this homegrown, renewable fuel, says a new study conducted by USDA and the University of Idaho.
  •  To promote the availability and use of soy biodiesel in 2010, the USB and soybean checkoff will again partner with more than 90 U.S. Department of Energy-affiliated Clean Cities chapters across the country to reduce petroleum consumption and develop programs that communicate the benefits of soy biodiesel through education, demonstrations and promotional activities in suburban and urban areas.
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