12 March 2018

Nigeria: Researchers Call for Improvement in Quality of Aviation Fuel

In order to ensure that high quality aviation fuel, known as Jet A1 is sold to airlines in Nigeria, a team of researchers has called on oil marketers to eliminate the microbial contamination in the product.

The team said that the contamination of aviation fuel takes place during the handling of aviation fuel and urged for quality control and intensified monitoring to enhance the quality of the product, warning that negligence may have dire consequences.

The study, which was carried out by a team of researchers from University of Ilorin, Kwara State was led by Prof. Albert Olayemi, a lecturer at the Department of Microbiology of the university.

The team recommended among others the incorporation of microbiological standards into the specification requirements of aviation fuel and allied products.

The team of researchers in examining products sold by the marketers 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.

This was after it drew samples from CITA tank farms at various locations in the country and came to the conclusion 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.

Industry operatives had at different for a, lamented the infiltration of contaminants to aviation fuel distributed in the country because of the cumbersome process through which it is moved to the airports: the gridlocks at Apapa road, the unclean tankers that convey the products and possible delays during importation, all these they say contaminate the quality of the product.

THISDAY learnt that this was the first of such study in Nigeria and it 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 team said 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.

According to Opeyemi, 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.

Olayemi said although 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.

He said based on the findings, it is recommended that the current practice of removing accumulated bottom water be sustained, coupled with periodic tank cleaning.

"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," he said.

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