Marine fuel

New Series: “The Wish List”

Ed. Note — If you’ve been boating for any length of time you’ve no doubt begun to accumulate some fairly specific ideas about the best way to do something aboard a boat, or the right way something should be designed or built, or perhaps even the way a service should be provided.  We’re not immune from that syndrome just because we’re journalists, although we do try to keep it under control when reporting news.  Periodically though, even journalists have to vent a little bit and we thought this new series would be a good chance for us here at OceanLines to share with you our personal “wish lists” for all things boating-related.  But here’s the deal; we will if you will.  We’d like to hear from you about the boats, products, services and technology that YOU think should be “standard.”  Leave us your own wish list items in the comments and we’ll collate them into a story so everyone can see them.

I flipped a coin and decided that (however it landed) I would go first (editor’s privilege).  So here is the first one from my personal wish list.  I have too many to bore you with in just one posting here so I’ll split them up and we’ll call it “a series.”  Remember, I need YOUR comments and wish lists.  There’s nothing like unsolicited product input to turn the heads of the product development people out there…


Universal Fuel It’s time we standardized on one all-purpose marine fuel, just like the U.S. Navy did in recent years. 

If you own a diesel passagemaker, you already know what a pain it is to have to manage that nasty gasoline for the outboard on the dinghy.  You’ve already got lots of diesel aboard — sometimes thousands of gallons of it — a nice stable, relatively safe fuel.  It has a high flash point (>125°F); won’t burn in open air at anything less than 494°F or so, and these types of fuels are becoming easier to make in “bio-form” from sustainable resources; like algae.   For reference, gasolines have a higher autoignition point but a MUCH lower flash point; typically around -45°F, and flowing gasoline can easily be ignited from self-generated static electricity.

U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier USS George Washington receives JP-5 fuel while underway.  Photo:

U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier USS George Washington receives JP-5 fuel while underway. Photo: Specialist Seaman Christopher S. Harte

In the case of the U.S. Navy, they standardized on another kerosene-based fuel, JP-5 and even got BRP-owned Evinrude to make an E-TEC 2-stroke outboard, the MFE (Multi-Fuel Engine) that would run on it.  Actually, that outboard will run on almost anything, at least for a short time.  As one Evinrude representative put it to me, “if people are shooting at you, we don’t want you worrying about what’s in the fuel tank.”  The Evinrude is also submergible, which suits special forces units, like the Navy SEALs, perfectly.  The Evinrude MFE is available to consumers through Evinrude dealers.  The MFE will run on kerosene, aviation fuels (JP-4, JP-5, JP-8, Jet-A and Jet-B), and standard gasoline. These fuels are available from commercial sources worldwide. The engine’s fuel selection can be changed with the simple flip of a switch, without compromising performance.

A Maritime Engineering Group Vision Diesel Outboard

A Maritime Engineering Group Vision Diesel Outboard

Another possibility is the Maritime Engineering Group’s Vision line of turbo diesel outboards.  It seems to be still in development, and the initial units are probably too big for use as tender/dinghy motors, but it might be a start.  You can see their work on the MEG website.

Yanmar used to make a series of diesel outboards, but they have not been available for several years now.  They were known as the D-series outboards, and probably the most popular was a 36 HP outboard, shown in the picture below.

Yanmar D-Series Diesel Outboard

Yanmar D-Series Diesel Outboard

The standardization on JP-5, which was driven by the requirement for the Navy’s aircraft carriers to carry mllions of gallons of it for use in jet aircraft, allows that service to simplify its logistics and safety procedures.  Saved a lot of money, too.  In fact, the entire Defense Department has a standardized fuels initiative that will have all services using a limited number of fuels by next year.

So let’s press our own marine propulsion manufacturers to agree on a standardized fuel; preferably a 100% biofuel, produced sustainably (not from petroleum), and get to work on designing and building engines in all power and weight classes to use it.  Modern diesels can be powerful, lightweight and virtually pollution-free using state-of-the-art filtering and catalyst technology.  With a standard fuel, we can simplify marine fuel logistics down the entire chain; from refinery to fuel dock to fuel tanks aboard our boats.  We’ll have a single, safer, environmentally responsible fuel and life will be simpler. Oh yeah; did I forget to mention that insurance rates for boaters and marinas would go down, too?


Copyright © 2009 OceanLines LLC

Posted by Tom in Industry News, Technology