Aviation Fuels Can Now Include Bioderived Constituents

Renewable fuels can now be blended with conventional commercial and military jet (or gas turbine) fuel through requirements in the newly issued edition of ASTM D7566-11, Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons. The revised standard was approved July 1, 2011.

Through the new provisions included in ASTM D7566, up to 50 percent bioderived synthetic blending components can be added to conventional jet fuel. These renewable fuel components, called hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA), are identical to hydrocarbons found in jet fuel, but they come from vegetable oil-containing feedstocks such as algae, camelina, or jatropha, or from animal fats called tallow. The standard already has criteria for fuel produced from coal, natural gas, or biomass using Fischer-Tropsch synthesis.

A subcommittee that consists of more than 2,000 members representing 66 countries, revised the D7566 standard. Mark Rumizen, who helped lead the work to revise the specification, heads the certification-qualification group for the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI), a coalition that seeks to enhance sustainability for aviation by promoting the use of alternative jet fuels.

"The revision of D7566 reflects an industry cooperative effort to accomplish this task," Rumizen said. "Because of the great emphasis on safety when you're dealing with aviation fuel, the passage of this ballot required a collaborative and cooperative effort between the members of the aviation fuels community." Representatives from companies across the fuel supply chain plus HEFA fuel producers, aircraft and engine manufacturers, and regulatory agencies were involved in the specification development and revision.

Rob Midgley, technology manager of aviation fuels for Shell Aviation in Cheshire, Great Britain, noted, "The approval of HEFA as a blending component in jet fuel builds on the great efforts expended by ASTM on approving Fischer-Tropsch components in 2009 and shows that, as a consensus group, ASTM can make great strides whilst maintaining the safety levels demanded by the aviation sector."

Aviation fuel producers and distributors, and airport fuel farms and airlines in the global aviation community will use the standard to verify fuel quality and performance by testing to the D7566 specification requirements. With this new edition, D7566 includes new, specific requirements for the bioderived synthetic fuel component such as thermal stability, distillation control and trace material amounts.

After blending with conventional jet fuel, new lubricity, distillation and composition requirements in D7566 must also be met. As a result, the blended jet fuel used in the airplane is essentially identical to conventional jet fuel and does not differ in performance or operability, notes Rumizen.

"The Air Transport Association of America and America's airlines commend ASTM for this critical and significant step, which brings the airline industry one step closer to meeting our environmental goals of widespread production of cleaner, alternative fuels while enhancing energy supply security and competitiveness," said John Heimlich, ATA vice president and chief economist, Washington, D.C.

The revised specification references numerous other ASTM standards, including tests that measure various properties of fuel. D7566 fuels also meet the requirements of ASTM D1655, Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuels, which has been used by the aviation community for decades for the quality control and distribution of conventional aviation turbine fuel. This allows these new D7566 fuels to be seamlessly integrated into the distribution infrastructure and onto certificated aircraft as D1655 fuels. 

"The revisions to D7566 are significant in also helping better to define the path to approval for other renewable blend components; components in which the aviation industry is already showing interest to help support the demand for sustainable growth," Midgley said.