fuel: expanding the horizon

March 12, 2019

Simply put, aircraft cannot fly without fuel. To ensure that aircraft continue to fly efficiently into the future, fuel providers are working on the next generation of aviation fuel that will significantly reduce carbon emissions. They are also expanding their services, providing tools for their customers to enhance training or to ease the fueling process while enhancing safety. Volker K. Thomalla reports

As fuel is the most important consumable for any business aircraft, fuel bills make up the largest proportion of an aircraft’s direct operating cost. While fuel prices have been relatively low in recent years, higher demand and political turmoil in the Gulf region have caused prices to rise this year. As business aircraft flight hours are going up, so does fuel consumption.

As the aviation industry has committed to reducing carbon emissions and gr carbon-neutral by 2020, there’s some pressure on fuel providers to develop alternative fuels. In 2050, the aviation industry wants to emit no more than 50% of NOx compared to 2005 levels. This goal was endorsed by the ICAO council in March 2018. Without alternative fuels, this goal is not achievable. Business Aviation is pursuing these goals and has applauded the implementation of CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation). Fuel is one important part of this puzzle, and here’s a look at how providers are working to solve it.

World Fuel Services

Headquartered in Miami, Florida, World Fuel Services (WFS) received a Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation 2018 Supplier of the Year Award because of its continued innovation and investment in renewable fuels. Since 2016, WFS has provided Gulfstream with more than 375,000 gallons of a renewable fuel blend that has been used to fly the Gulfstream corporate fleet over 500,000 nautical miles. Each gallon of renewable fuel burned achieves a greater than 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on a life cycle basis relative to petroleum jet fuel. WFS has partnered with Gulfstream for two decades, providing fuel and aviation solutions to support the management of its business-critical operations at international and Business Aviation sites across the US.

“We’re very proud to have been named a Gulfstream Supplier of the Year, as it’s a testament to our continued commitment to innovation that supports Gulfstream’s quest to offer the most innovative, high quality service available worldwide,” says Steve Drzymalla, Senior Vice President, Business Aviation Bulk Fuel at WFS. “We’re especially proud of the great work we’ve carried out to manage Gulfstream’s push toward an environmentally sustainable future through our Biofuel provision.”

“Our flexible approach has seen us serve more than 2,400 Gulfstream aircraft with flight operations solutions, including contract fuel, Avcard, and trip support services in 2017 alone,” he adds.

World Fuel Services distributes fuel to more than 8,000 locations in more than 200 countries around the world.

Air BP

Air BP, the international aviation fuel products and services supplier, is also working on ways to reduce the environmental footprint of aviation fuel. For example, it is helping its customers to offset their carbon emissions in Latin America and has highlighted its carbon offset program for Business Aviation in Brazil at LABACE in August this year. Through this program, Air BP offsets carbon emissions via BP Target Neutral.

“We are offering our Business Aviation customers the opportunity to proactively work towards achieving the industry’s ambitious carbon reduction targets by offsetting the emissions from the aviation fuel used in their flights, as part of their wider carbon management programs,” says Ricardo Paganini, General Manager, Air BP South America.

The program is in line with BP’s commitment to achieving a lower carbon future. Specifically, it addresses the dual challenge of meeting increasing energy needs while at the same time working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “In addition to finding ways to reduce our own carbon emissions, we work closely with our customers to develop innovative offerings that support them in the transition to a lower carbon future,” continues Paganini.

Paganini also notes that Air BP’s carbon offsetting offer in Brazil complements its own carbon neutral into-plane fueling operations at 250 directly operated locations around the world, including a number of locations in Brazil. The company announced its first participant in the program in Brazil in June this year. The executive aircraft management company Avantto saw the opportunity to take another step in their own sustainability journey. This builds on initiatives by Air BP in other regions, such as the announcement in April of their collaboration with on-demand jet charter marketplace Victor in a carbon-offset program for private flying in Europe, as well as the ability for operators and pilots who use the RocketRoute MarketPlace app to offset the carbon associated with their fuel purchases.

Projects within the BP Target Neutral portfolio have been assessed on the basis of their contribution to reducing carbon emissions and their potential to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Air BP is also helping its customers and fuel handlers avoid mishaps through misfuelling. On this point, it has developed a technology for which it is applying for a patent that adds another safety barrier into the fueling process. It presented this new Airfield Automation technology, called ‘safe2go’, at EBACE last May. This tool is based on a digital platform and is an integrated, real-time, global solution that mitigates risks during the fueling process. It is the first commercially deployed system in the world to provide an engineering barrier to actively help prevent misfuelling.

“Misfuelling is one of the biggest risks we face in our industry, and the new Air BP Airfield Automation technology provides an engineering barrier to stop it happening,” says Kerry Rutherford, Air BP technical director.

The ‘safe2go’ app works on a handheld device in the fueling vehicles. It captures fuel volume readings and provides fuel grade checks. It then electronically captures customer details that are confirmed with an electronic signature from the pilot or the airline. By using this automated, paperless system, accuracy is enhanced and any potential mis-keying errors are minimized.

Air BP began introducing ‘safe2go’ to its network this summer. It anticipates the new technology to be fully operational at around 350 locations by 2020. “This new platform reinforces our ambition to be a leader in digital fueling technology,” adds Air BP Chief Commercial Officer Matt Elliott. “With this new technology, we are playing our part in ensuring that the fueling process is fast, efficient and safe.”

Shell Aviation

Shell Aviation supplies an impressive amount of 72 million liters (19 million US-gallons) of aviation fuel every day. It is present at 850 airports in 32 countries, refueling an aircraft every 14 seconds on average. For them, sustainable fuel, is a priority, too. The company has signed a long-term strategic collaboration with SkyNRG in May this year to develop and promote the use of sustainable fuel in aviation supply chains. The agreement will see Shell Aviation and SkyNRG work together to develop long-term opportunities for low carbon solutions. These efforts are structurally supported by committed funding to a joint business development fund.

“We want Shell to be a leader in the low carbon transition in aviation fuels,” said Anne Anderson, Vice-President Shell Aviation. “Today’s agreement with industry pioneers SkyNRG demonstrates the type of progressive collaboration that can help us move us towards a lower carbon emissions future. Working together, we believe we can advance sustainable solutions for the benefit of our entire industry.”

The agreement is a multi-year collaboration, with both companies acknowledging that the path to lower carbon emissions in aviation requires long-term commitment. The collaboration will focus on the joint development and funding of new opportunities to extend the use of and build more resilient supply chains for sustainable aviation fuels. This will be coupled with the development of a range of comprehensive carbon management options that will provide support to Shell Aviation and SkyNRG customers.

“In addition to bringing together the right mix of technical expertise and operational excellence, it’s the shared ambitions of SkyNRG and Shell Aviation to develop this new industry that makes this collaboration an obvious one,” says Maarten van Dijk, CEO SkyNRG. “Shell Aviation’s long-term commitment to develop this new market sends a strong signal that the involvement from all players across the industry is critical to delivering the sustainable solutions that are vital for the future of aviation.”

Avfuel

Avfuel, the global aviation fuel supplier with a network of over 650 Avfuel-branded dealers and more than 3,000 locations around the globe, has introduced online fuel safety training programs. It worked with the FAA to gain approval for this safety tool, which is easily accessible for FBOs and operators. The FAA has approved Avfuel Corporation’s online fuel safety training programs on July 31, 2018, which are part of the Avfuel Training System (ATS). Now, FBOs and operators can utilize Avfuel’s online Line Fuel Service and Supervisory Fuel Service Training to ensure compliance with FAA fuel safety regulations as outlined by 14 CFR 139.321.

“With the new designation, Avfuel became the only aviation fuel supplier with an in-house FAA-approved online safety training program,” says Buffey Muth, Avfuel’s marketing manager. “As a fuel supplier, we have an ethical responsibility to support our customers in meeting Business Aviation’s rigorous safety standards. We’re proud to offer our branded FBOs a substantially lower-cost training option to meet those standards.”

All Avfuel-branded FBOs have access to these training solutions and keep their employees up-to-date on safe handling of fuel. In addition to the FAA approval, Avfuel also announced the launch of a new training platform. The new Avfuel Training System features a state-of-the-art online learning environment that allows FBO management to more easily centralize and implement staff training.

“We’re a high-tech industry, and our training system should be on pace with that,” said Muth. “Now, when customers visit the online portion of the ATS, they’re presented with a more intuitive learner and manager dashboard with a more modern interface. It also offers easy access from any device, a knowledgebase, a quick-reference tool, more efficient management tools, easier reporting and other conveniences for a more tailored training experience.”

The ATS Fuel Safety courses satisfy FAA requirements for 14 CFR part 139 training and include such topics as fuel handling and fire safety, aviation fuels and additives, fuel system icing inhibitor, contaminants and fuel testing methods, procedures for receiving a load of fuel, aviation fueling components, fuel storage systems, mobile refueling equipment, aircraft fueling, recordkeeping, and general operations. The training topics expand to more than “just” fuel. Other topics include marshalling, towing, de- and anti-icing, aviation security, front counter operations and premier customer service. Use of in-depth video and resources allows each employee to train at his or her own pace. Along with the online program, Avfuel will continue to host its FAA-Approved Supervisory Fuel Training seminars throughout the country multiple times per year.

BBA Aviation

In May, BBA Aviation plc announced that it intends to acquire Epic Aviation LLC, DBA Epic Fuels, a privately-held company with headquarters in Irving, Texas; operations in Salem, Oregon; and a subsidiary, QTpod in Boulder, Colorado. Epic Fuels will be a separate operating business within the BBA Aviation portfolio. BBA Aviation owns Signature Flight Support, a global FBO network. The acquisition of Epic Fuels complements this network.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement to acquire EPIC,” says Mark Johnstone, BBA Aviation Chief Executive. “This acquisition fully supports the strategic development of Signature through increasing our network relevance and extending the range of fuel and non-fuel services we offer our customers across our unique FBO network.”

“We’re proud to be joining BBA Aviation, a world-class company who is an acknowledged leader in aviation, with whom we share aligned values,” adds Kevin Cox, Epic Fuels President. “Over the past 78 years of continuous operations, Epic has developed a loyal, diverse, and supportive customer base. This acquisition will generate significant opportunities for all of our customers who depend upon our team for fuel, services and award-winning fueling devices.”

Epic provides fuel and services at 205 FBO locations, 185 of these locations are branded Epic and 20 are branded UVAir.