Avgas lead producer allays supply concerns

July 15, 2010

The only producer of tetraethyl lead for avgas this month reaffirmed its commitment to continue to manufacture and supply the additive for the aviation industry.

The Environmental Protection Agency published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking this spring that could ultimately lead to emissions standards mandating general aviation’s transition to unleaded avgas. The step has prompted some concerns that dwindling demand and the threat of a mandate could lead Innospec, the world’s only producer of the lead for avgas, to stop production of tetraethyl lead before the industry is ready to transition to an unleaded fuel; the company issued an information update to allay those concerns.

The company said it has a scalable manufacturing operation in place to meet the demand for 100LL. “We reiterate that we have no current plans to cease the manufacture or supply of TEL-B [the tetraethyl lead in avgas] and, whilst there is continued demand for 100LL avgas, we will continue to support the industry during the phase out of the product,” the company wrote.

While 100LL remains readily available, industry organizations have together been developing a long-term plan for the transition to an unleaded fuel, the Future Avgas Strategy and Transition Plan (FAST).

“Leaded avgas is not going away any time soon,” said AOPA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Rob Hackman. “With a stable supply of 100LL now, we have the time to make well-researched, well-thought-out decisions that will put general aviation in the best position in the long term.”

Tetraethyl lead production now represents a small and decreasing portion of Innospec’s business. The company said that while it reduces plant capacity to meet the declining demand, it continues to manufacture and keep an inventory of tetraethyl lead to meet the demands of the aviation industry. It said it is able to meet demand “to the same high standards of product quality, technical service, safety and security of supply that we have always offered with the overall aim being to ensure that, when blended in avgas, fuel quality is maintained and aircraft performance and safety is not compromised.”