Examining Fuel Recovery Units

The case for recapturing fuel samples

Fixed base operators diligently take fuel samples each morning to provide evidence that the fuel they will be selling that day meets industry standards. And every day these good samples are thrown away into 55-gallon drums, slop or waste tanks. The shrewd operators (or so they think) burn these fuel samples in ground support equipment; but if the fuel is good by industry standard, why is it being thrown away or burnt in GSE equipment? Wasting quality fuel doesn’t make sense, which is why there is a movement towards the installation of fuel recovery units (FRUs) which process good jet-A and avgas samples into fuel that can be sold at full retail price, by recycling back to storage.

Fuel samples are taken from various sampling points located around the fuel farm and refuelers. The samples generally range from two to five gallons per sampling point, and the amount of sampling points vary from fuel farm to fuel farm. Samples are taken for both jet-A and avgas.

A real -world example of the amount of fuel ($$$) wasted at an FBO in Colorado went like this: its jet-A fuel samples were totaling 40 gallons a day, 365 days a year, which totaled 14,600 gallons of clean dry jet-A that was thrown away annually. To add insult to injury, the FBO has to pay to have this “waste” hauled off the airport and disposed of properly.

The argument regarding using the jet fuel in mobile fuel trucks, ground power units, and diesel tugs is a dangerous gamble. This can cause serious engine problems for vehicles not designed for this type of fuel, or not properly blended with lubricating additives required for most diesel engine injector pumps and for newer engines designed for ultra low sulfur diesel(ULSD).

Conservation of avgas is becoming critical because of the decreased amount of oil companies who are willing to store the 100LL fuel because of the lead content and the extreme expense of transporting it from much greater distances than ten years ago. Like jet fuel, burning avgas in GSE equipment isn’t recommended because not all gasoline engine fuel system components are compatible with this type of fuel. This practice can cause engine fires which destroy valuable pieces of equipment. The aforementioned Colorado operator figured out that they were wasting 1,889 gallons of avgas each year by not using a fuel recovery unit.

Limiting exposure
Another benefit of the fuel recovery unit is the safety benefit when defueling the bulk plant filters and mobile truck filter vessels. The use of the FRU eliminates environmental exposure by curtailing 55-gallon drums sitting around the facility and eliminating risk to maintenance personnel by having closed loop fuel equipment drain downs alleviating fire or fuel spills in the shop drains.

The fuel trucks can defuel filter vessels before they enter service shops for preventative maintenance, breaking the old unsafe habit of pulling the truck in the shop and performing the filter drain down inside and dealing with open containers of fuel. Most new fuel trucks and bulk storage plants have filter vessels that can hold from 60 to 150 gallons of product that has to be drained down once a year for annual filter changes. It is good business to reclaim the fuel back to storage and sell it at full retail price, when properly processed.

FRUs increase the efficiency in plant operators daily quality control processing of fuel samples. There is a reduction in the amount of paperwork generated by tracking and logging fuel samples being thrown away and stored in slop and waste tanks.

There are a number of FRUs on the market ranging from good to bad designs. Like all other products, one must do their homework. For the company that is entertaining the purchase of this type of product, there are a number of factors to consider when selecting the right type of FRU. Does the fuel supplier have specific requirements for this type of equipment? Will the unit require electrical power, remote samples, FSII, seasonal spikes in business, etc.?

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