Fuel for the future

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Daniel Blackwell
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
As of May 15, 2012, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., is one of the first bases to switch from military-grade JP-8 fuel to commercial jet fuel known as Jet-A, saving money without sacrificing the quality or performance of the aircraft.

Jet-A fuel is two cents cheaper per gallon than JP-8 fuel, and is projected to save the Department of Defense $40 million annually in fuel costs.

The Defense Logistics Agency of Energy in conjunction with the Air Force Petroleum Agency began this initiative by performing demonstrations at four Air Force locations (Dover Air Force Base, Del., Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and Minneapolis-Saint Paul Joint Air Reserve Station, Minn.).

These demonstrations, set underway November 2009, were used to show the capability and practical benefits of converting from JP-8 to commercial Jet-A fuel in real-world scenarios.

Jet-A fuel in its base form is not compatible with military grade equipment, but through the Continental U.S. Conversion Program the fuel is made compatible.

"DFSP (Defense Fuel Support Point) Charleston, Hanahan S.C., injects the three additives prior to sending it to us," explained Mark Yarke, Maytag Aircraft Corporation terminal superintendent. "This step ultimately saves us time and money."

Not only does this cut down steps on our end, but since JP-8+100 has gone away, it saves costs on the maintenance and upkeep of the +100 injection system that is no longer in use, Yarke added.

Shaw is one of few bases that have the capability of receiving fuel through multiple avenues. Shaw's rail lines remain open and in operation, and are capable of transporting 20,000 gallon-containers. The base is also capable of receiving fuel supply trucks, which can carry approximately 7,800 to 8,500 gallons of fuel.

"So if the truck drivers happen to go on strike, we can transport the fuel via rail line; and if the lines are down then we can use trucks to receive fuel, which gives us options," explained Yarke.

Even though all necessary additives are injected prior to transportation to base, the fuel must still be checked for quality control through the fuels laboratory.

"We ensure quality control here in the lab," explained Staff Sgt. Jesse Ball, 20th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels lab technician. "We make sure that the fuel in fact is what they say it is, and is safe to go in the jets."

Once the fuel has been checked and approved, it's then ready to be used to fuel the jets.

"Having one grade of fuel has reduced mistakes and made our job a lot easier," said Airman 1st Class Dionte Jones, 20th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels equipment operator.

Prior to the switch, certain aircraft required specific fuel and specific fueling trucks were required to carry the fuel to the corresponding aircraft. With the introduction of Jet-A fuel, which is compatible with all aircraft, it has reduced confusion and simplifies the entire process.

"JP-8 and JP-8+100 were not compatible with all aircraft and fueling trucks," Jones explained. "The Jet-A fuel fixes all that, because every aircraft that comes on base gets Jet-A fuel now. It's very helpful."

Switching to commercial fuel has cut down on costs and operations, and has reduced mistakes. But, more importantly it still allows Shaw to complete its mission in the sky with no negative repercussions.

"We want to make sure our boys in the air have the best fuel," Ball concluded. "Because once they're in the air, there are no brakes."

Original content found here.