Study seeks standard measures against aviation fuel contamination
•Lauds CITA over best storage procedure
A pioneering local study on microbial contamination of aviation fuel and its handling system in the country has urged quality control agencies to intensify monitoring to enhance quality of supply to the industry.
The study carried out by a team of researchers from University of Ilorin, Kwara State, recommended among others, the incorporation of microbiological standards into the specification requirements of Jet A1/allied products.
Microbial are microorganisms like bacteria and fungi that are capable of existing in water where it interfaces with fuel. These microorganisms use alkanes and additives in fuel as foodstuff. The most destructive of the microbes that grows in the aircraft fuel environment is the fungus Hormoconis resinae. It is the most common cause of microbial corrosion in aircraft fuel tanks.
Meanwhile, the research, courtesy of its findings, has commended the management of CITA Petroleum Nigeria Limited, for compliance with the numerous industry and company’s proprietary Policies, Standards and Procedure (PSP) covering the entire supply storage and distribution chain.
Having drawn samples from CITA tank farms at various locations, the study attested that microbial contamination has been contained within the International Air Transport Association (IATA) guidelines, which ensure that fuel is on-specification at point of delivery to aircraft.
Contaminated fuel is one of the causes of equipment failure, which is the second leading cause of plane crashes globally, after pilot errors.
The first of such study in Nigeria was aimed at assessing microbial contamination of aviation fuel and fuel handling system at CITA Petroleum Tank Farms located in Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Abuja.
The six points on the storage facilities selected for sampling included the bulk fuel, the oil-water surface, the bottom water, the inlet and discharge filters as well as sludge from the separation tanks and environmental surfaces.
Samples were collected on three different occasions between September 2014 and May 2015 representing rainy, harmattan and onset of rainy season, in other to evaluate the effect of seasonality on the detection and frequency of occurrence of the microbial contaminants.
Lead researcher and lecturer at the Department of Microbiology, University of Ilorin, Prof. Albert Olayemi, said though the work might not be enough to establish microbiological quality standards to classify Nigerian fuel (aviation) and fuel handing system, it is nonetheless a first approach to underscore the importance of microbial contamination in aviation fuel and safety.
Olayemi said based on the findings, it is recommended that the current practice of removing accumulated bottom water be sustained, coupled with periodic tank cleaning.
He said: “Since most of the microbes are located in the aqueous phase of the water – hydrocarbon interface, the main way to avoid growth and fuel spoilage is removing the accumulated water.
Although it may be difficult to prevent microbial contamination because of the impossibility of maintaining sterile conditions in the farm tanks and during transportation, its negative effects can be diminished.”
Olayemi added that the combined monitoring and preventive action costs would normally be less than the costs associated with crises response strategy.
The indigenous study was sponsored by CITA’s grant of $100,000.
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