Everything you need to know about aviation fuel and its suppliers - Everest Haber


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Everything you need to know about aviation fuel and its suppliers

Aircraft don’t run on any old fuel as they ferry hundreds of passengers through sometimes challenging conditions such as turbulence, high winds and temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius when high above the ground.

No one wants to discover that there is a problem with what is keeping the engines running during a flight across the open ocean. Just for safety alone, fuel for aircraft needs to be pure and of consistent quality. Trusted aviation fuel suppliers should always deliver a product that is of a reliably excellent standard, handled professionally, and transported safely to their clients.

What goes into conventional top quality aviation fuel?

One type is called jet fuel, and this kind of fuel generally comprises of unleaded kerosene or a blend of naphtha kerosene with a high specific energy. Derived originally from crude oil - as is automotive gasoline for cars, which tends to contain hydrocarbon chains of seven to 11 carbon atoms - when it comes to jet fuel, the hydrocarbon chains tend to be between 12 and 15 carbon atoms, and these extra carbon atoms are the chemical difference between kerosene and petrol.

With those extra carbon atoms, kerosene freezes at a much lower temperature and has a higher flash point, which makes it much safer in a wide range of temperatures. Any fuel for aircraft must be of the purest quality to avoid any issues in the air, and it may contain additives that protect against freezing. It can be used in a turbine or compression ignition engine.

Aviation fuel suppliers can also be sources of Avgas, or aviation gasoline, which is a highly refined form of automotive gasoline that is produced to deliver stable and safe performance in a range of conditions. It can be used in a Wankel or reciprocating engine.

Top quality aviation fuels with specific chemical or physical properties can also be used in a variety of testing programmes, where results need to be reproducible for testing and compliance, used for research and to assist with designing new types of engines, or to support research into combustion methods, lubricants or additives.

Emerging fuels

As a result of concerns with the continued supply of fossil fuels, and the emissions they can produce, research is also developing biofuel alternatives such as sustainable aviation fuel, vegetable oils or blends of biofuels and fossil fuels. However, these still face a number of barriers, including that of cost. Compressed or liquefied gas is another developing option, however, gases even in liquid form can exhibit low specific energy compared with traditional fuels.

All machinery performs better and lasts longer with better quality fuel. However, with aircraft there is no margin for error and any dip in quality could lead to potentially fatal consequences. As a result, it is extremely important to deal with suppliers who can guarantee the purity of their product so that it always meets the high standards required to maintain air safety.

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