Feasibility of JP-8 to Jet a Fuel Conversion at U.S. Military Facilities

By Vann, Lance A.; Anderson, Bradley E. et al. | Journal of Transportation Management, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Feasibility of JP-8 to Jet a Fuel Conversion at U.S. Military Facilities


Vann, Lance A., Anderson, Bradley E., Johnson, Alan W., Journal of Transportation Management


INTRODUCTION

The Secretary of the Air Force remarked recently that the United States Air Force (USAF) spent approximately $6.6 billion on aviation fuel in fiscal year 2006. This is $1.6 billion more than budgeted for that year alone (Wynne, 2007). In 2005 the Defense Energy Support Center (DESC) purchased $4.96 billion worth of Jet Propellant -8 (JP-8) and Jet Propellant Thermally Stable (JPTS), over $1.4 billion more than the previous year (DESC Fact Book, 2006). The need to address these rapidly increasing fuel costs demands the collective attention of Department of Defense (DoD) leaders and government lawmakers.

One option is for the military to abandon its consumption of unique, custom-blended fuels and instead use the same commercially available fuels that the airlines use. In this spirit, our research investigates the technical feasibility and cost of using Jet A to replace JP-8 at multiple Northwestern United States military installations. In this paper, we map the relevant bulk JP-8 supply chain to determine the commodity price for the Pacific Northwest and identify options for storing and issuing Jet A in lieu of JP-8. We also determine if the applicable military aircraft or equipment can use Jet A as a primary or alternate fuel. We conclude with a cost assessment of feasible options.

Our research is important and directly useful in fuels pricing and analysis for two main reasons. First, we established a new and more accurate "apples to apples" pricing comparison, which was adopted as the new standard by the two agencies necessary to enact a switch from JP-8 to Jet A fuel. We also showed that a switch to Jet A fuel in the Pacific Northwest would not show a savings as suggested by a 2007 C4e study, but instead would cos more.

BACKGROUND

Although commercial aircraft routinely receive JP-8 fuel at military bases and military aircraft occasionally receive Jet A fuel when landing at commercial locations, little documentation explores the overall impact of a complete shift in the DoD's first tier fuel requirement from JP-8 to Jet A. Most fuel related studies focus on fuel economy improvements and cost avoidance efforts in the logistics field, rather than a complete switch to a conventional commercial product. This study helps determine if a switch from JP-8 to Jet A is feasible and if any costs can be avoided through such actions. The aspect of feasibility refers to the substitutability of Jet A for JP-8 and is critically important, as any cost analysis would be meaningless if Jet A could not be used. Although more research is needed in this area, we found that most USAF aircraft are already certified to use Jet A fuel and there are no substantial barriers for its widespread use.

The sheer fuel volume our military consumes and the logistical implications of ensuring the availability of fuel for any and all military mission requirements drives DoD policy development concerning JP-8. In order to reduce logistics related hazards, the military services agree to use a single fuel, JP-8, for both air and land-based missions. Following a 2004 revision to the single battlefield fuel concept, the demand for JP-8 grew exponentially when it became the DoD fuel of choice (DoD Directive 4140.25, 2004). Increased military demand, coupled with the growing price of crude oil, further emphasizes the DoD's continued JP-8 reliance and possible vulnerabilities.

To switch from JP-8 to Jet A, at least two DoD petroleum agencies must be in agreement before the Air Force and other military branches can adopt commercial jet fuel usage for military applications. The Air Force Petroleum Office (AFPET) is responsible for determining the feasibility of using particular jet fuels while DESC is accountable for jet fuel purchasing agreements between the government and commercial fuel refineries. Therefore, without AFPET's technical certification and favorable DESC cost analysis, new jet fuels cannot be considered as options for the United States armed forces. …

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