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Last refiner of 80-octane avgas quits the businessLast refiner of 80-octane avgas quits the business

Last refiner of 80-octane avgas quits the business
AOPA has resources to help pilots cope

Kern Oil, the last known refiner of 80-octane avgas, has stopped making all aviation gasoline. But AOPA has online resources that can help pilots who need it find 80-octane avgas or to explore other fuel alternatives. At the same time, the association is continuing its advocacy for replacement fuels.

"AOPA has committed its resources to the future of aviation, and ensuring a continuing supply of aviation fuel is part of that commitment," said Rob Hackman, AOPA manager of regulatory and certification policy. "We're working on where you can find fuel today, and where you'll find it tomorrow."

The "advanced search" function of AOPA's Airport Directory Online can find airports that still have 80 octane (or any other aviation fuel, including autogas). Some 22 airports still report having 80-octane avgas.

Another option for some owners is using automobile gasoline.

But even 100LL may not be available for many more years. The "LL" stands for "low lead." 100LL avgas is the only fuel using tetra-ethyl lead (TEL) not banned by the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States. AOPA successfully lobbied to prevent EPA from banning leaded avgas because there are currently no acceptable alternate fuels or octane boosters that meet the needs of the entire piston-engine fleet.

That situation cannot continue forever. There is only one TEL supplier left. Avgas is a high-cost, low-volume product for refiners, representing less than 0.2 percent of their total output. The few refineries still producing aviation gasoline only devote a few days a year to making batches of avgas. They have to shut down and purge their systems after refining avgas because of the lead. Refiners could make a business decision to stop making avgas (as Kern Oil did). Eventually, the government will likely ban all leaded fuels.

AOPA is supporting FAA and industry research into unleaded aviation gasoline that can safely meet the needs of all current piston engines, including the high-power (more than 250 horsepower), high-compression engines.

For example, AOPA has lobbied successfully for continued funding from Congress for alternative fuels research at both the FAA's William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and academic institutions.

The association is a member of the Coordinating Research Council (CRC) and the petroleum products committee of the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM). The CRC is a group of experts from industry, government, and universities directing alternative fuels research. And ASTM will set the standards for any replacement fuel.

"Our goal is to keep existing aircraft flying," said Hackman. "We'll continue our efforts to keep 100LL flowing until a high-octane unleaded alternative can be developed, tested, and approved."


August 12, 2004

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