SAN FRANCISCO (April 18, 2013) -- Soybeans are helping power a debris-removal vessel operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers San Francisco District.

Mechanics at the district's baseyard in Sausalito, Calif., overhauled the M/V Raccoon in 2011, to allow its engine to run for the first time on a non-petroleum fuel made entirely from soybeans called B99. The results are already being well received on deck.

"The best thing about it is it's clean. It puts out less emissions; it has less odor, which makes the crew happy, particularly the boat operator, because he's up there by the stacks, and the diesel exhaust would come right into the pilot house," said Ken Danielson, chief of the district's Navigation Branch.

In contrast to the petroleum-based diesel used on the Raccoon for more than half a century, B99 is completely biodegradable and non-toxic.

The new fuel is being used not only on the Raccoon, but on five other boats as part of a pilot program to test how clean energy can help fuel the corps' fleet.

"It's really the right thing to do because it reduces our carbon footprint and gets us away from the dinosaur oil," said Danielson.

With the Raccoon operating daily in the greater San Francisco and San Pablo bays, any reduction with respect to the boat's carbon emission levels will be considerable over time. And if biofuel proves successful on the Raccoon, other San Francisco District boats may be next.

"When the Dillard's cat engines are out of warranty, we will consider switching that one too," said Danielson.

The M/V John A.B. Dillard, Jr., is the San Francisco District's newest command and control vessel, commissioned into service in 2010. It joins a district fleet of debris-removal vessels that include the Raccoon and Grizzly.

Together, these vessels remove more than 1,200 tons of debris every year keeping navigation channels in the Bay Area open and free of hazards.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers strives to protect, sustain, and improve the natural and man-made environment of our nation, and is committed to compliance with applicable environmental and energy statutes, regulations, and Executive Orders. Sustainability is not only part of the Corps' decision processes, but is also part of its culture.