Prior to its release to the market, aviation turbine fuels must demonstrate conformance to the specification requirements outlined in ASTM D1655, the standard specification for Aviation Turbine Fuels. This specification was initially developed for civil applications following the end of World War II, as the demand for specialized fuel for jet engines necessitated the pivot from the high-octane aviation gasoline (Avgas) that had become revolutionary just a few years earlier. Thus, a kerosene-based product known as Jet fuel entered the industry. Jet fuel is categorized as a fuel with a higher flash point and lower volatility to its gasoline counterpart. Its enhanced performance, coupled with being less expensive to produce, made this new fuel the leading competitor for both commercial and military operations. The first wide cut standardized jet fuel (JP-4) came into use in 1951, and a few more iterations were produced before we arrived at the Jet-A fuel which is most commonly used today.
Jet fuel is comprised primarily of refined hydrocarbons derived from sources such as crude oil, natural gas liquid condensates, and heavy oils. Certain additive components may also be blended into the jet fuel to either improve the overall performance of the fuel or for handling and maintenance purposes. Once the jet fuel has reached its final stage of blending and refinement, it is transported by pipeline to be distributed to companies at their fuel terminals. Typically, theseterminals have multiple above-ground storage tanks that store up to 100,000 gallons of fuel each. To test these tanks, technicians will pull a representative sample when the tank is ready to undergo inspection. Proper sampling is imperative to establish the fuel’s quality, as a number of jet fuel properties are sensitive to trace contamination which can easily be introduced at the point of sampling.
Technicians will take the representative sample and perform a series of tests to determine the fuel quality. If the tested jet fuel is deemed “fit-for-use”, a Certificate of Analysis (COA) will be produced showing that it falls within all of the prescribed testing parameters. Each test assessesproperties such as:
• overall composition,
• and thermal stability.
On average, it takes four hours from the point of sampling to issuing the final report to the pipeline terminal operators. This enables a timely delivery to commercial airports who rely heavily upon a constant and uninterrupted source of jet fuel for their daily operations. Rapid turn time and efficiency is a huge requirement for the labs processing these tests. This is necessitated by the swift nature of the airline industry as well as the sheer volume of jet fuel consumption on a regular basis.
In the event that a sample does not meet the defined requirements, analysts may take additional steps depending on the nature of the test and the initial result obtained. For example, a failing thermal stability deposit result may indicate the need to introduce more metal deactivator additive (MDA), or a low result for water separation characteristics may indicate that surfactants are present in the fuel and a filtration is necessary. Ultimately, the next action steps are decided upon by the terminal operators, but it is the responsibility of the laboratory performing the teststo identify these non-conforming results prior to commercial distribution. After any treatments are made to the fuel, the testing lab will once again perform the batch testing slate and determine if the jet fuel conforms to the ASTM D1655 specification. The ASTM D1655 Standard Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuels was initially published in 1959, presumably after a considerable amount of data was collected and reviewed to effectively characterize the properties of jet fuel. Since then, the standard has been continuously evaluated by technical committees in order to maintain the necessary parameters that assess the quality of aviation turbine fuel from production to the aircraft.
One key component to regulatory testing is ensuring the validity of results. SPL’s confidence in the data we report is bolstered by the quality systems we have in place such as:
• routine quality control checks,
• internal audits,
• and participation in ASTM governed proficiency testing programs for each of our common sample matrices.
Further, we proudly hold and maintain an ISO 17025 accreditation at our Arlington laboratoryfor the full jet conformance requirements as dictated by ASTM D1655.
Regulatory jet fuel testing is the bread and butter of the analyses performed at our SPL Finished Products laboratory in Arlington, TX. We are proud to offer high quality testing and the superior customer service necessary to ensure the safe and economical operation of aircrafts in the United States. When you trust SPL with your testing needs, you can sit back, relax, and have peace of mind that the product you’re sending into the world to cruise at an altitude of 30,000 feet meets specifications and regulatory requirements. Contact us today for pricing and more information on the test methods we can provide.