By John Boyce, Contributing Editor
Refueler manufacturers are as puzzled as FBOs, airports, and other interested parties by the EPA's apparent insistence that fuel delivery vehicles are storage containers when stationary and require secondary spill containment. And they can't offer a practical, technological solution. Meanwhile, the OEMs are moving ahead with other technological advances.
Steven Paul, president of Garsite, a tank and refueler manufacturer in Kansas City, understands that the rule (40 CFR 112.7e2xi) is in the 1974 legislation pertaining to Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures. But he is at a loss to explain why a refueler would be more vulnerable when stationary than when in motion.
"The most likely release (of fuel) will take place when the refueler is in motion," Paul says. "It can sheer off a valve or drive off with the hose still attached. And I can’t recall any problems except perhaps an overturned truck or something like that."
One of Paul’s customers, in fact, checked EPA spill records and couldn’t find an instance when there was a release from a parked fuel truck.
"I don’t know of anything that can be done (to provide the containment)," Paul says. "We were asked if we could build an item that a truck could drive onto while getting fuel or when it was parked. But then we understood that we had to do that underneath the airplane" and that wasn’t feasible.
Terry Bosserman, president of Bosserman Aviation Equipment in Carey, OH, doesn’t rule out the possibility of OEMs coming up with a solution but he, like his fellow manufacturers, is concerned about the cost.
"We have actually built trucks for Air BP that had environmental safety pans under the truck," Bosserman says. "If anything leaked on that truck the pans would retain it. It would not retain the total amount of the truck but if a flange leaked, a pump leaked, whatever, it would be retained on the truck. So to say it’s impossible, it’s not ... The only problem with these environmental pans is when it rains or snows you also have to deal with the rain, the snow, and the ice."
If EPA was to mandate a device or method, Bosserman sees that it could be good for him personally "because that’s more stuff we can sell, but from an industry standpoint it’s going to hurt because anytime we put more cost on the industry it just puts more burden on it... If it’s a safety issue I’m all for it, but if they look at the overall amount of product that is spilled from our industry it is going to be very small compared to other industries."
If a refueler does leak, says Mike Wilkinson, President of Rampmaster in Coatesville, PA, it is easily seen and dealt with. "If you have a mobile refueler," Wilkinson says, "and a leak is identified, unlike a storage tank that is not mobile, you can drive this over to a containment area, notably your fuel farm ... and you can eliminate the problem. You can’t do that with a fixed asset; you can with a mobile refueler. So why the EPA is focused on this when they already have countermeasures available is beyond me."
If pressed for a solution, Wilkinson says, "The only thing you can do: Grandfather all existing refuelers and require that all tanks be double-walled. Then you could put a containment area between the inner and outer tank and if you sampled the outer tank through a drain port and you found any trace of jet fuel you would know you have a leak."
While refueler manufacturers have not settled on a way to resolve the containment issue, they have been busy incorporating technologies into refuelers to make them safer, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly. Among the most noteworthy developments is the construction by Bosserman of an electric-driven refueler, albeit, a small (750 gallons) truck that dispenses avgas.
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