12 December 2011

Naval Civil Engineering Masterpiece – An Example For Us

In the Pearl Harbor pumping station with
Captain John Polowczyk (CO, Fleet Logistics
Center PH), LCDR Angela Watson (Fuel Director),
and Mr. Scott Hedrick (Deputy Director of Fuel and
Facility Management at NAVSUP FLC Pearl Harbor)
Last week, while in Hawaii for an annual meeting with my Pacific Fleet counterpart Admiral Pat Walsh, I had the opportunity to visit the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility. As its name implies, "Red Hill" is an underground fuel storage facility buried deep in Red Hill overlooking Pearl Harbor.

Iniside Tank #19
One of our Navy’s great engineering feats, the Red Hill project was started in August 1940 as an effort to replace the above ground (and vulnerable to enemy attack) fuel storage tanks that were being used to supply our forces in the Pacific. Although the standard practice at the time was to bury fuel containers in shallow trenches, the huge amount of fuel we were storing in Pearl Harbor (a lot!) made this approach impractical. Our engineers went to the drawing board to come up with another solution. True to their reputation to make the impossible, possible, Navy civil engineers devised an ingenious plan to excavate 20 massive vertical storage tanks deep in the volcanic rock of Red Hill. The tanks were carved out of the volcanic rock 200 feet apart in two straight rows of ten, surrounded with concrete walls three to eight feet thick (depending on the location) and lined with steel walls. Each tank alone is 250 feet tall, 100 feet in diameter (large enough to hold a 20 story building) and holds 12.6 million gallons of fuel (roughly 300,000 barrels). Together, the 20 massive cylindrical tanks have a storage capacity of over 252 million gallons of fuel (enough fuel to power the entire U.S. for one third of a day). 
A good shot of the “Howling Owl”
railway in the upper tunnel
Between the two rows of tanks are two tunnels (upper/lower) connected by an elevator. The upper tunnel is near the top of the tanks (yet still 450 feet below ground!) and contains a small railway nicknamed the “Howling Owl.” The lower tunnel is below the tanks and contains three fuel lines – a 32-inch diesel line, and 18-inch and 16-inch jet fuel lines – that lead to the pumping station in Pearl Harbor a few miles away. Once the fuel (diesel, JP-5 and JP-8 jet fuel) reaches the pumping station it is then sent over to fuel piers for our ships and shipped by trucks to other bases around the island to fuel our forces in the Pacific. 
Despite the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the project continued uninterrupted and was ultimately finished nine months ahead of schedule in September 1943. Aside from a few modernizations (the terminal is now automated) the structure itself today has changed very little from when it was originally completed.
The area leading from the pump
station into the lower tunnel
68 years ago our predecessors (Navy and industry!) showed us what innovation and ingenuity really meant. When faced with the great challenge of an impending war, they had a job to do, and they did it. And they created a structure the likes of the world had never seen. And in 1995, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) designated the Red Hill facility a civil engineering landmark which officially made her a monument and forever puts her in the same class as our nation’s other great engineering feats (Washington Monument, Hoover Dam, etc).
The Red hill project is just one more example of things we built or developed in our history, from our first six frigates (the CONSTITUTION and her sister ships) that gained the great victories in the War of 1812 to the Aegis Combat Systems and its ability to engage ballistic missiles, when faced with extraordinary challenges in uncertain times.
Our predecessors did not believe they were helpless victims of a budget process or circumstances beyond their control; indeed, they determined that it was their choices that drove their actions, and not just their circumstances.   
Today, we must follow their example – we must recognize our generation’s “Red Hill” challenges and act on them. We are just as capable as the Sailors of any era in our history – we have the intelligence, drive and dedication to meet the challenges of our time, to ensure it is our actions that determine our future, not our current circumstances.
Read the story of Red Hill and you’ll understand what we can do.
All the best, JCHjr
*Click here to watch a very good video of the story of Red Hill.
The Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility
was designated a national historic
civil engineering landmark in 1995.



mike said...

Congratulations, Old Salt !!


Richard said...

Congratulations Old Salt! It has been quite a few years since we served together on the USS Nimitz.
VR/ Rick CWO3 Retired

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on becoming the Old Salt!