There’s probably no topic more important to those of us who fly General Aviation aircraft than the continued availability of aviation fuel. For those of you who may not be familiar with aviation, the fuel used in aircraft is made the old fashioned way because it uses tetraethyl lead to increase the octane rating. High octane fuel is necessary because about 30% of the aviation fleet use high compression engines, and those aircraft use 70% of the aviation fuel. The engine I’ll be putting in my Cozy MKIV will require this fuel. Leaded fuel has been outlawed by the EPA for all other uses, but aviation fuel got an exemption for a period of 30 years. That period ends in 2010, which is coming up soon.
I agonized over the decision over whether to use a high or low compression engine in the Cozy but I figured that with all the aircraft fleet that need 100LL, there would be some fuel developed that would come to the rescue, possibly an ethanol based biofuel. Of course, with an experimental aircraft, I could always put lower compression pistons in the engine and use autogas, if I had to, but that’s not ideal. So I was very excited to hear about this new fuel that is being developed that has so many advantages that it’s hard to believe it’s true.
I emailed the owner of the company and he responded. That’s always a good sign. Not only that, he graciously referred me to his associates on the project if I had any more questions about it. I’m really hoping that these guys are successful. Here’s the report I got from Avweb:
“Not only can our fuel seamlessly replace the aviation industry’s standard petroleum fuel [100LL], it can outperform it,” says John Rusek, a professor at Purdue University and co-founder of Swift Enterprises. The company recently unveiled a new general aviation fuel that it says will be less expensive, more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendlier than any on the market. Unlike other alternative fuels, Rusek said, SwiftFuel is made of synthetic hydrocarbons that are derived from biomass, and it can provide an effective range greater than 100LL, while costing about half as much to produce. “Our fuel should not be confused with first-generation biofuels like E-85 [85 percent ethanol], which don’t compete well right now with petroleum,” Rusek said. Patented technology can produce the 1.8 million gallons per day of fuel used by GA in the U.S. by using just 5 percent of the existing biofuel plant infrastructure, the company said.
The synthetic fuel is 15 to 20 percent more fuel-efficient, has no sulfur emissions, requires no stabilizers, has a 30-degree lower freezing point than 100LL, introduces no new carbon emissions, and is lead-free, Rusek said. In addition, he said, the components of the fuel can be formulated into a replacement for jet/turbine fuels. The company now is working with the FAA to evaluate the fuel.