May 23, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
Phoenix-based Airworthy AutoGas has announced plans to produce and distribute a high-purity, low vapor pressure, ethanol-free, 93 AKI, premium unleaded auto gasoline this fall.
The company was driven to offer autogas after noting that more general aviation aircraft do not require a high octane aviation fuel such as 100LL. “That, coupled with the scarcity of suitable ethanol-free automotive gasoline in the marketplace resulted in the development of Airworthy AutoGas,” said Mark Ellery, the company’s director of business development. “Our goal is to get pilots flying more for less.”
As for autogas’s market, Ellery noted that as much as 80 percent of GA aircraft do not need a high octane fuel. But that 80 percent only consume around 30 percent of the available fuel, which is 30 percent of the current aviation gasoline market, he added.
These percentages highlight why this fuel is not a replacement for avgas, said Rob Hackman, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “While it won’t replace 100LL, it can provide a safe and stable supply of autofuel to those aircraft that are approved to utilize it,” he said.
Current industry efforts are focused on ensuring that the industry will continue to have 100LL for the near future, said Hackman. “We continue to work on implementing a program to transition the industry to a high-octane unleaded fuel with the least impact on the existing fleet,” he said. “It’s this part of the fleet that accounts for the majority of the fuel utilized by general aviation.”
The FAA and industry groups are sponsoring the establishment of a Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI), currently being implemented, said Hackman. “PAFI is a five-year program that will evaluate candidate unleaded fuels and approve the most viable replacement fuels for 100LL avgas,” he said.
Airworthy AutoGas is strategically located within the Phoenix Tank Farm Complex, which is an extremely large motor fuel terminal facility, and the hub of motor fuel distribution in the region, said Ellery. “The tank farm is connected to all of the refineries that serve this region, via a petroleum products pipeline, and the Airworthy AutoGas facilities include the necessary railcar access, blend component access, storage tanks, blending capabilities, and distribution capabilities, delivery truck or railcar, to enable Airworthy to meet the growing needs of the aviation marketplace,” he said.
The plan is to eventually serve the North American market, said Ellery. “To accomplish this, our initial focus will be to satisfy the demand of the Southwestern U.S. market, then expand the business to other parts of the country, via direct distribution or through licensing agreements,” he explained.
There are a multitude of factors and variables involved with determining the price of autogas product, including blend component costs, and transportation costs, said Ellery. “Airworthy AutoGas is the fuel producer, not the retailer, and cannot establish the retail price,” he said. “Regardless, we believe that Airworthy AutoGas can be offered at retail at a significant price savings in relation to the price of 100LL in any given retail market.”
Airworthy AutoGas will be delivered via truck or by railcar, and distributed to the final consumer through FBOs, flight schools, and others who have the appropriate fueling capabilities, said Ellery.
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