Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Impact of Alternative Fuels present in Airports on Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Response

DOT/FAA/TC-14/22 Authors: Jonathan Torres

Impact of Alternative Fuels present in Airports on Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Response

Environmental pollution concerns and the prices of crude oil and kerosene-type jet fuels have driven government and industry leaders to research alternative fuel solutions. Each year, alternate fuels become more common, and they are being introduced into airports, bringing with them the potential for unknown dangers. This literature review was created to assess the integration of alternative fuels in airports and the possible new fire threats they might pose. The alternate fuels discussed here include synthetic paraffinic kerosene (SPK), biodiesel, green diesel, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquid petroleum gas (LPG), and electricity.

Alternative fuels are being introduced to airports through two different venues: aircraft and ground service equipment (GSE) vehicles. These venues are made possible through programs such as the Voluntary Low Emissions Program. Each year, airlines, such as United Airlines and Royal Dutch Airlines, are slowly increasing their use of SPK blends in their fleet to reduce their aircraft’s greenhouse gas production. On the ground, airlines are retrofitting current (or buying new) GSE vehicles to run on various alternative fuels.

The introduction of these fuels means that aircraft rescue and firefighting personnel might have to address new potential dangers. Past research showed SPK fuel fires are similar to JP-8 fuel fires, though some SPK fuel blends have exhibited higher heat fluxes and faster material burnthrough times. Alcohol-resistant aqueous film-forming foam is the recommended agent for biodiesel fires; however, this extinguishing agent cannot be used in U.S. airports because it does not meet Federal Aviation Administration requirements. LPG and CNG fires pose great dangers because of the chance of storage tank explosion. Fire tactics for electric vehicle fires are still under development and little information is available.

In section 8 of this literature review, concerns and possible areas of research are presented. These range from analyzing fire extinguishment tests using SPK fuels to observing the fire behavior of lithium-ion batteries of electric GSE vehicles.

Authors: Jonathan Torres

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