Air Force using B-52s to test synthetic aviation fuel

Discussion in 'Modern' started by FLYBOYJ, Sep 10, 2006.

  1. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Air Force using B-52s to test synthetic aviation fuel
    This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press on Sunday, September 10, 2006.
    By ALLISON GATLIN
    Valley Press Staff Writer



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    EDWARDS AFB - Searching for a means of reducing dependence on foreign oil, the Air Force is testing a synthetic fuel for its aircraft.
    The fuel could be a replacement for the JP-8 aviation fuel currently in use.

    Already tested by the Air Force Research Laboratory and in ground tests using an aircraft engine unattached to an airplane, the fuel will be put to the test at Edwards Air Force Base this month.

    "Now what we're going to do is take the next step and fly this," said Col. Arnie Bunch, commander of the 412th Test Wing.

    The flight tests will use a B-52 on loan from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. Two of the bomber's eight engines will use the synthetic fuel, the remaining will use the regular JP-8 fuel.

    The B-52 was chosen for these tests because the fuel can be isolated in those two engines. If something should go wrong with the fuel, the aircraft can still land safely using the six remaining engines, Bunch said.

    "Our pilots routinely train to do six-engine approaches. It's not anything a B-52 pilot doesn't routinely fly," he said.

    The two engines that will use the synthetic fuel have not been modified, except to be outfitted with test instruments to measure performance, Bunch said.

    The nonpetroleum fuel is made using the Fischer-Tropsch process to convert coal, natural gas or other hydrocarbons. The process was first developed by German scientists in the 1920s as a means of compensating for that country's lack of oil supplies.

    South Africa has employed the process to manufacture aviation and diesel fuel for some 50 years, according to an Environmental Protection Agency fact sheet.
    For this test, the aviation fuel is made from natural gas. Oklahoma-based Syntroleum has provided 100,000 gallons of the aviation fuel for this flight test program, according to company officials.

    The company produces two forms of the synthetic fuel, diesel and aviation, at its Catoosa Demonstration Facility outside Tulsa, Okla.

    The diesel fuel has been used in demonstration projects for public transit in Tulsa, Washington and by the U.S. National Park Service, according to the company.

    This is the first flight test of the aviation fuel.

    Because manufacture of the fuel is still a demonstration project and not full-blown commercial production, the costs do not directly compare with those of petroleum-based fuels.

    "Our economic analysis has shown that we can produce our ultra-clean fuel and achieve acceptable returns at prices comparable to commercial diesel and jet fuel," said Gary Gamino, director of investor relations for Syntroleum.

    The Air Force plans to begin flight testing with a baseline flight using the newly instrumented engines to determine performance using regular aviation fuel.

    This baseline information will be used to compare performance of the synthetic fuel.

    "I want what a pilot does when he has this fuel and how the airplane responds is the same it is today," Bunch said.

    The first flight using the test fuel is scheduled for Sept. 19. Officials hope to complete the testing in two flights, but a third is possible, he said.

    The data collected during flight testing will determine how the fuel may be used and if engine modifications are necessary.

    "Now the expectation is performance will be the same and we won't have to modify anything," Bunch said.

    The goal is to determine how it may also be used in other areas, such as ground support equipment and other engines.

    "We're looking at what we could do for the entire Air Force fleet," he said.

    The Air Force uses more than 3 billion gallons of aviation fuel a year and pays $3.50 a gallon, according to researchers at the Air Force Research Laboratory.
     
  2. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Great info.

    Looks like as China's and India's economies expand in the coming years, the west will leapfrog them (technology wise) using new fuels.
     
  3. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    We are already in general leaps and bounds ahead of China in particular...

    Great info Joe, be interesting to see how it pans out.
     
  4. the lancaster kicks ass

    the lancaster kicks ass Active Member

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    i can see how this may cut costs as intended but, although i realise it wasn't intended to, it doesn't help any sort of problems of running out of fossil fuels, they don't half make a big deal of a 6 engined approach, most pilots would nothing more than having 6 engines :lol: .........
     
  5. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Agree and thanks!!
    Let's hope so..

    Yep!!!:lol:
     
  6. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    This reminds me of a mission I flew into Langly AFB back in the early 70s in a C-141. Three Phds from Langly wanted a tour of my plane which I accomodated. They then asked me how I would like to fly it with liquid hydrogen. I said that, since we were already flying with liquid oxygen, a much more dangerous liquid, it didn't bother me at all. They said they were doing a study on using a C-141 as a test bed for liquid hydrogen propulsion. They said they would have to add two underwing tanks nine feet in diameter and sixty feet long! I guess they figured it was too much work, or wouldn't work, because it was never tried.
     
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