07 September 2015, Abuja – Aeronautical engineers and pilots have shed light on the allegation that oil marketers had been selling kerosene to airlines as aviation fuel, known as Jet A1.
Some airline operators led by the Executive Chairman of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Captain Nogie Meggison, during the Aviation Round Table last week raised the alarm that petroleum products marketers had been supplying kerosene as aviation fuel, insisting that the substitution has lowered performance of aircraft engines.
But an aeronautical engineer told THISDAY that the allegation was unfounded because according to him, the difference between kerosene and Jet A1 is very thin and the jet engine of an aircraft is built in such a way that kerosene could be used to power its engine for 10 per cent of its life span before an overhaul.
He explained that an aircraft jet engine that has life span of 3000 hours could be powered for 300 hours with kerosene and the engine would function effectively, noting that there is difference between using kerosene and contaminated fuel, which could be injurious to aircraft jet engines.
He explained: “Jet A1 is highly refined kerosene with very low sulphur and the difference between kerosene and Jet A1 is that kerosene may have high level of sulphur, which gathers residues at the bottom of a stove tank, but that sulphur is reduced to the minimum in Jet A1 DPK). Aircraft jet engine can also run on kerosene, so a pilot could use kerosene in a place if it is difficult to get Jet A1. We used to call it bush flight when you operate in a remote place where you may not be able to get aviation fuel.”
He also noted that because of Nigeria’s dependence on imported fuel, it is not possible to import kerosene because modern refineries do not refine kerosene anymore. According to him, what they refine and sell as kerosene is Jet A1, which is easily used for domestic cooking and there is nothing wrong doing so.
“Caution can only be raised at this time when the local refineries will start working. Because these refineries are very old and they still refine kerosene. The warning could be relevant when you say that kerosene should not be used as Jet A1. So what the federal government has been importing for years now is Jet A1; nowhere else in the world that they refine kerosene. So Jet A1 can be described as highly refined kerosene. So every jet engine allows you to use kerosene to run it 10 per cent of its span before overhaul,” the engineer clarified.
A pilot who also owns an airline disclosed that fuel product is subjected to a lot of checks before it is allowed into the tank of an aircraft.
“Every aircraft has test kit, which is used to check the quality of fuel before it is put in the aircraft tank. Besides, the marketer who brought the fuel must sign it off, the engineer must ensure that the fuel is of standard quality and the pilot approves and supervises the fuelling of the aircraft. So if there is allegation that fuel is contaminated because of the storage facility or the dirty tanker that brought it to the airport one can understand but it should be known that there is thin difference between kerosene and aviation fuel and also refineries in various countries of the world no more refine kerosene,” the pilot said.
However, reports said the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) has said that it had not recorded any case of plane crash caused by substituted aviation fuel.
AIB, however, described the concern of airline operators as merely speculative, saying: “Any time we are doing accident investigation, part of the routine exercise is to take fuel sample, whether it is the one that is causing crash or not, we still take fuel sample and present for analysis. I don’t think we have seen any accident that was caused by fuel up till now.”
The umbrella body of suppliers of aviation fuel in the country, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), also dismissed the allegation, insisting that its members would never substitute kerosene for aviation fuel.
The executive secretary of the association, Obafemi Olawore, said MOMAN members import aviation jet directly from offshore platforms.
“MOMAN is a law abiding association that upholds honesty and integrity in discharging its business duties; we have not even been allocated kerosene by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation in the last four years,” Olawore said.
*Chinedu Eze – Thisday