US Coast Guard evaluating diesel outboards; final report due June 2018
19 June 2017
The US Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC) is evaluating the use of available diesel outboard engines on its small boats. Although diesel is the dominant fuel for cutters and many boats, the Coast Guard operates hundreds of gasoline-powered outboard engine boats. Conversion to a single-fuel fleet could improve operational performance, efficiency and resiliency.
The project began in 2014 with the issuance of a request for information and assessment of markt availability.
The RDC is now in the third phase of the project—engine testing. Testing covers performance assessments as well as long-term reliability, availability and maintenance data collection. Three engines—Mercury Marine’s 175HP spark-ignited diesel engine and the OXE 200HP and Cox Powertrain 300HP compression-ignited diesel engines—will be tested through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements, CRADA, with industry.
The RDC is wrapping up the testing on Mercury Marine’s 175HP engine at Coast Guard Training Center Yorktown in Yorktown, Virginia. Testing on the compression-ignited diesel engines will begin at Yorktown in the first quarter of fiscal year 2018.
To initiate the project, the RDC conducted a market survey to determine the characteristics and development status of diesel outboard engines in the 150 to 300HP range currently available on the market. Data from the survey was used to develop a cost-benefit analysis. The operation, performance and maintenance cost portion of the study focused on the response boat-small platforms, which make up 40% of the Coast Guard’s outboard engine fleet.
Ultimately, the analysis concluded that the Coast Guard can experience significant operation, maintenance, infrastructure and logistics cost savings through integrating diesel outboard engine technology into future boat fleet designs.
Among the other identified benefits was the potential for drop-in replacement with renewable fuel.
The Coast Guard provided the results of the cost-benefit analysis to other government agencies and industry at the Multi-Agency Craft Conference in June 2016. As a result, the Army Corps of Engineers and US Navy have engaged the RDC to leverage the work done to conduct similar analyses to possibly justify a transition to diesel for their fleets as well.