Jet Fuel: Sky’s The Limit

The World of Jet Fuels

Jet fuel, also known as Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) or Avtur, is specifically crafted for gas-turbine engine-powered aircraft. With a clear to straw-colored appearance, the widely utilized fuels in commercial aviation adhere to international standards, primarily Jet A and Jet A-1. Another variant, Jet B, finds use in civilian turbine-engine aviation for its enhanced cold-weather performance.

Aviation fuel or Jet fuel constitutes a blend of diverse hydrocarbons. Kerosene-type jet fuel, encompassing Jet A and Jet A-1, exhibits a carbon number distribution ranging from approximately 8 to 16 carbon numbers per molecule. On the other hand, wide-cut or naphtha-type jet fuel, including Jet B, spans between about 5 and 15 carbon numbers.

This specialized petroleum-based fuel, designated for powering aircraft, maintains a superior quality compared to fuels for less critical applications. Typically enriched with additives, aviation fuel mitigates risks such as icing or explosion due to high temperatures, distinguishing it from fuels used in heating or road transport.

Jet Fuel Around the Globe

In the realm of civil aviation, the United States adheres to the ASTM Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuels D 1655, which delineates the criteria for three distinct grades of fuel: Jet A, Jet A-1, and Jet B. Jet A is a kerosene-type fuel used extensively within the United States by both domestic and international airlines, while Jet A-1, virtually identical to Jet A, possesses a lower freeze point of -47 degrees C. Jet B, classified as a wide-cut type fuel, is rarely found in contemporary usage, with limited availability primarily in northern Canada due to its advantageous lower freeze point and higher volatility in cold weather.

The United Kingdom, although initially developing its jet fuel specifications for military purposes (D. Eng RD 2494), has since adopted DEF STAN 91-91 as the standard for its civil jet fuel. This specification aligns with Jet A-1 grade, featuring a maximum freeze point of -47 degrees C. While Jet A-1 under DEF STAN 91-91 closely mirrors its ASTM D 1655 counterpart, some areas exhibit a higher stringency.

The former Soviet Union, including Russia and CIS members, boasts a variety of kerosene-type jet fuels designated as T-1 to T-8, TS-1, or RT. TS-1, the principal grade in Russia, possesses distinctive characteristics, such as a low freeze point (equivalent to about -57 degrees C) and a low flash point (minimum 28 degrees C). Meanwhile, Eastern European countries have their own national standards, often resembling Russian standards but sometimes converging with Western Jet A-1 properties.

Chinese jet fuels, classified into five types, have undergone a rebranding, transitioning from numbered prefixes (RP-I, RP-2) to No 1 Jet Fuel, No 2 Jet Fuel, and so forth. These include kerosenes similar to Soviet TS-1, with varying freeze and flash points. RP-3 closely aligns with Western Jet A-1 and serves as an export-grade fuel.

On an international scale, the AFQRJOS checklist has emerged to address the complexities of jet fuel supply arrangements, incorporating the most stringent requirements of DEF STAN 91-91 and ASTM D1655 for Jet A-1. This checklist is recognized by major aviation fuel suppliers, including Agip, BP, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil, Kuwait Petroleum, Shell, Statoil, and Total, serving as the foundation for their international supply outside North America and the former Soviet Union.

Numerous other national specifications exist globally, often rooted in US, UK, or former Soviet standards, with ongoing efforts to harmonize discrepancies. Within the civil aviation sector, two main turbine fuels, Jet A-1 and Jet A, dominate usage, both falling under the category of kerosene-type fuels. Jet B, a wide-cut kerosene blend, is seldom utilized except in extremely cold climates.

In contrast, military jet fuels, such as Jet-4, Jet-5, and Jet-8, incorporate corrosion inhibitors and anti-icing additives, meeting specific military specifications. JP-9 and JP-10 serve as gas turbine fuels for missiles, each with distinct compositions.

It is essential to dispel misconceptions surrounding “JP54,” as it is not a recognized trading product. Airlines procure Aviation fuel A1 with varying specifications, often adhering to the Colonial Grade 54. Platts, through its Jet Fuel Price Index, calculates spot prices using proprietary daily assessments, regional baskets, and a Global Composite Index, reflecting market changes since the base year of 2000.