A World War II United States Navy destroyer -- the U.S.S. Johnston -- steamed out?
A World War II United States Navy destroyer -- the U.S.S. Johnston -- steamed out of Philadelphia on Thursday (15 November) to become the first ship in history to use coal-derived oil to power its engines. It was another reflection of the world's growing fuel shortage and the search to find petroleum substitutes.
Newsmen joined military and civilian officials on the one-day cruise of the Johnston, and initial impressions were that the pilot test was a success, although a detailed analysis has yet to be completed.
For more than a year, the U.S. Navy has been working with the Department of the Interior to develop a clean-burning, economical substitute for the petroleum-based fuels which the Navy consumes at 42 million gallons (160 million litres) a year. The new fuel is also a liquid -- produced by decomposing coal and then treating it with chemicals.
If all goes as planned, the coal-derived fuel will begin replacing petroleum fuels in U.S. Navy vessels in about three years, and will ultimately -- within a decade -- account for about half of the Navy's total consumption.
On land, the Department of the Interior's Coal Research Office already has a pilot coal-liquefaction plant in operation and another under construction. Two pilot plants to convert coal to gas fuel are also in operation, with a third being built.
Although research into coal gasification and liquefication has been under way for almost ten years, the recently developed fuel crisis has given it new and accelerated emphasis. The Navy estimates that United States coal reserves are adequate for at least another 100 years, while other estimates have ranged up to 500 years and more.