A Concern With Biodiesel

Fuel quality control veteran outlines issues related to transport of emerging fuels

As an example, we have worked with large aircraft maintenance and repair facilities that defuel aircraft and have discovered that during the recertification process required to resell the jet fuel, the product was off-spec due to microseparometer (MSEP) test results. We suspect that the root cause was the lubricity additive used in ULSD, which is a strong surfactant. Aircraft don’t use ULSD so we concluded that the source of the contamination was the use of non-grade dedicated transports. A very small amount of biodiesel or ULSD residue left in the tank or sticking to the side — even after cleaning — could cause the jet fuel to be off-spec. Truck pumps, pipes, and hoses are another potential source of cross-contamination from ULSD or FAME.

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How can an operation help ensure that it does not suffer from a FAME-related incident? Talk with the fuel supplier and ask what steps are being taken to address the issue. Check to see if the road transport vehicle delivering the fuel is grade dedicated. During the operation’s next aviation fuel delivery, ask the driver to show the DOT required documentation evidencing the grade of product previously hauled in the tank prior to this aviation fuel delivery.

About the Author

Mike Mooney has served a management role in aviation-related operations including FBOs, airline ground support, into-plane fueling, a corporate flight department, as well as design, installation, and operation of aviation fuel storage systems. A private pilot, he leads the technical & operations function for Air BP.

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