For nearly 20 years the refueling industry has been using water-absorbing filter elements in filter monitors to remove potentially harmful contaminants when delivering jet fuel into aircraft. However, last year, the American Petroleum Institute (API), which sets standards for such equipment, pulled its API-1583 standard which governs filter elements; and, on October 26, 2006 the Energy Institute — the United Kingdom's equivalent of API — issued a "warning" related to the monitors. As a result, fuel suppliers are putting on an information blitz to refueling companies — "thou shalt not use" is how one industry rep puts it.
Besides the obvious safety implications, say industry sources, the issue has liability written all over it. As one rep explains, "The Energy Institute and API set the standards, and attorneys are good at focusing in on industry standards which they then view as law."
The U.S. Navy, say sources, was the first to issue concerns related to filter elements and their potential degradation that could lead to contaminants being delivered into aircraft fuel tanks. Since that time, they say, at least one U.S. airlines has raised similar concerns.
"There is very real confusion over water-absorbing filter elements. Everyone agrees it is wrong to use these elements in fuel with anti-icing additive, but there is question in regard to their safe use in plain jet-A fuel. This is because not only can these elements pass water in some cases, but they also release trace amounts of water-absorbing media in some cases," explained Jim Gammon, president of Gammon Technical Products, Inc.
It was these concerns, explains Gammon, that led to API dropping the API-1583 standard. However, the Energy Institute continued to support the standard. EI's warning in October of last year, served to heighten the concern. As one industry supplier put it, "This was the first time that API or EI has publicly released such a statement."
Therefore, FBOs and other aviation refueling companies are being advised to use extra diligence in their refueling operations.
"Sump the system regularly to reduce the possibility of water buildup, whether you have additive or not, and to reduce the possibility of biological growth problems in systems without additive," Gammon advises.
"Do not use water-absorbing filters in fuel with [anti-icing] additive in it. You must use a filter separator. You cannot retrofit a filter vessel made for water absorbing elements to accept filter separator elements. In addition, a filter separator vessel is much larger. Work is being done to come up with smaller vessels for this than presently available, but they will still be larger than monitor vessels.
"If you have a filter separator on your truck, and it was retrofitted with water-absorbing elements, you can change it back. But you must have a water detector in the sump.
"But going to plain jet fuel and additive injectors is not simple. You must keep the reservoirs full, turn the injectors on and off, and do simple maintenance (most importantly, changing the desiccant dryer, and calibration)."
For some 20 years the refueling industry has been using water-absorbing filter elements in filter monitors to remove potentially harmful contaminants when delivering jet fuel into aircraft.
Fuel filter monitors remain under the industry microcope, and one of the leaders on the subject — Jim Gammon — offers an update.
I want to make sure the industry knows to not use water absorbing filter elements on Jet A fuel pretreated with anti-icing additive.
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