Skip to comments.Eco C17: Historic takeoff at McChord will be powered by mix of synthetic, traditional fuels
Posted on 12/15/2007 5:25:32 PM PST by llevrok
By all appearances, there wont be anything to distinguish a C-17 thats scheduled to leave Monday morning from all the others that depart McChord Air Force Base. But this flight will be noteworthy. It marks the first Air Force cross-country trip powered by a mixture of synthetic and traditional jet fuels. Its another waypoint in the services long-term program to reduce its dependence on foreign oil.
It will look a lot like every other takeoff, said Col. Frank Rechner, the mission support group commander with McChords 62nd Airlift Wing. But its historic.
Just like drivers at the pumps, the Air Force is getting hammered by rising fuel costs. Its gas bill in 2003 was $2.6 billion; by 2006, it had climbed to $5.8 billion.
The service burns half the fuel consumed by the Department of Defense each year. With nearly 6,000 airplanes going through 7 million gallons of fuel a day, a $10 rise in the per-barrel price of oil reportedly costs the Air Force $600 million a year.
The services plan is to turn to domestic energy producers first to supply natural gas, and later, coal, which would be converted into liquid fuel.
The mixture to be tested in Mondays flight is a 50-50 blend of natural gas-based fuel and standard JP-8.
The Air Force bought 290,000 gallons of the synthetic fuel from Shell Houston, at a cost of $3.41 per gallon, said Paul Bollinger Jr., special assistant to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics.
The fuel was produced at a Shell plant in Malaysia.
We expect the price to be significantly less as greater volumes are purchased in the future, Bollinger said.
A McChord spokeswoman said the cost of traditional jet fuel was about $2.31 a gallon this week; that figure changes weekly.
The Air Force expects to certify all of its C-17s to fly with the new mixture by next May, and its entire fleet of aircraft cargo jets, fighters, tankers and bombers by 2011.
About the same time, the Air Force has set a goal to buy half of the fuel for its flights in the continental United States from domestic sources producing synthetic fuel in an environmentally friendly manner, Bollinger said.
That amounts to about 400 million gallons.
Air Force officials hope the Pentagons interest helps speed up private industry to develop a means of deriving liquid fuel from coal mined from the vast reserves in the United States.
McChord C-17s are part of the U.S. airlift fleet that uses the lions share of the fuel consumed by the Air Force, flying supply and logistics missions from U.S. bases to the war zones in Afghanistan, Iraq and to U.S. installations elsewhere around the world.
The local C-17s go through about 170 million gallons of fuel every year, consumption that in fiscal year 2007 cost more than $382 million, said Capt. Suzanne Ovel, a base spokeswoman.
That includes every gallon pumped into a McChord-based C-17, whether it tanked up at the home base, at some other flightline around the world or in a midair refuel, she said.
McChord was selected to host the C-17 flight test because it has the fuel-handling infrastructure to keep the mixture separate from other fuel tanks and lines when its stored and when its pumped into the jet for the test flight.
That was imperative to maintain the integrity of the test, that it will be totally segregated, Rechner said.
Theyre also observing how the alternative fuel behaves in storage and in the supply system: What does it do to the tanks? The seals? The piping?
We have been waiting to see if theres any degradation of the system. We have not found any, Rechner said.
The Air Force transition comes at a time when states and environmental groups are putting pressure on the federal government to clean up the skies.
A group of six state attorneys general this month asked the Environmental Protection Agency to curb global warming pollution from jetliners and other aircraft.
Patrick Mazza, research director for Climate Solutions in Seattle, has concerns about the use of coal in synthetic fuels because it still ends up in the atmosphere. He said Boeings commercial aviation division is doing promising work with biofuels, specifically algae.
But hes not surprised the military is strongly pursuing alternative energy sources.
The Air Force understands the geopolitics of petroleum as well as anybody, said Mazza, whose group advocates for renewable resources to reduce greenhouse emissions.
A crew from McChords 7th Airlift Squadron will fly Mondays test flight. Along the way theyll measure engine and aircraft performance, weight and balance of the fuel onboard and its effect on the aircrafts mileage.
The flight is bound for McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.
Its supposed to go over the top of New York City, Rechner said. It really should send a good message to the rest of the world that the United States Air Force and the Department of Defense is taking this alternative fuels program very seriously.
I doubt the synthetic part will be green enough so I’m sure the eccoweenies will have plenty to cry about.
A McChord spokeswoman said the cost of traditional jet fuel was about $2.31 a gallon this week
So Synthetic costs about $1.10 a gallon more, so there is no economic justification.
And the synfuel comes from a Muslim country, so there isn't any strategic benefit, either.
The fuel was produced at a Shell plant in Malaysia
One can do the same using coal instead of natural gas. This was practiced by the Nazis during WWII and South Africa during the Apartheid years (and still is being used as far as I know).
I am guessing that some of the major oil companies (Shell included) are re-evaluating coal-based processes that exploit the same chemistry with crude oil at $80-100/bbl.
Okay, this looks like a line out of a comedy skit.
That said, I do miss the C-141.
Here's a video of what a large jet is supposed to sound like - back when men were men and Americans loved America...
Just do not fly it over Moses Lake on this first “ECO fuel” test.
My Mr. can take a 141 apart and put it back together again without so much as a single screw left over. The Starlifter was a nice airplane.
Yahoo! I’m only about a mile away from the base. I love having planes fly around the house. While there are no fighters based here, they come and go, I suppose doing some training or fuel stops from other bases around here? When they did have the airshow, for about a week we had all sorts of stuff zooming around. And don’t get me started on the military UFOs and stuff that comes in late at night, virtually sound free, with no lights. My night vision goggles picks em up to a degree.
Hope things have improved for you. I remember your message/prayer request from a week back.