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Who says synthetic fuels won’t fly? March 13, 2008

Posted by OldGuy in Fischer-Tropsch.
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Sorry for the bad pun, but I’ve learned that the US Air Force is testing the use of synthetic fuels in its larger jet aircraft.

According to the US Air Force News Service, the Air Force flew a C-17 transport aircraft on Oct 22, 2007 using a Fischer-Tropsch/JP-8 fuel blend.

“There was no discernible difference between JP-8 and Fischer-Tropsch,” said Maj. Scott Sullivan, the mission pilot.

The USAF plans to convert the entire C-17 fleet to the synthetic blend, starting in early 2008. The final steps for C-17 certification include a service evaluation out of McChord Air Force Base, Wash., completion of material compatibility tests and final supplier qualification of the engine, auxiliary power unit and fuel quantity measurement system with the Fischer-Tropsch/JP-8 blend. The C-17 holds around 30,000 gallons of fuel, and is refueled several times a day.

This is the second type of AF aircraft to use this blended fuel. Last summer, the B-52 Stratofortress bomber was certified to use the FT/JP8 blend. The B-52 is the oldest aircraft type in the inventory, delivered to the AR in 1961 and 62, making them all over 40 years old. It’s 8 engines consume a large amount of fuel; it has a maximum capacity of 312,197 pounds (48,030 gallons), and often uses at least that much on each flight, plus in-flight refueling.

If FT can be produced for the estimated $35 a barrel (There are about 42 gallons per barrel of FT.) In that oil currently sells for over $100 a barrell, the cost savings of a FT blend would be substantial: for the B-52, the savings would be over $100k per sortie . And although the C-17 engines are more efficient, flown more each day, and they, too, would save over $100k per day.

FT fuel is also a cleaner fuel, with less pollution.

In accordance with the Secretary of the Air Force’s Assured Fuels Initiative, all USAF aircraft will be certified by 2011. An office has been created at the Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to manage this unparalleled effort.

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