Air Force Petroleum Agency officials are finalizing preparations for field testing of a 50/50 blend of JP-8 and synthetic jet fuel at the 364th Training Squadron fuels training complex at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.
Alternative Fuels Certification Office officials at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, said synthetic fuel blend testing is slated to begin by late May and synthetic fuel shipments here are already under way.
Air Force officials are currently in the certification process for the new blend in step with Department of Defense officials' plan to reduce its dependency on foreign crude oil.
"The Air Force intends to gradually incorporate alternative fuels into fleet-wide operations," said Jeff Braun, the Alternative Fuels Certification Office director. "Our goal is to have alternative blends supplement about 50 percent of our domestic aviation fuel needs by 2016."
Braun explained the transition represents about 400 million gallons of the Air Force's current requirements of about 1.6 billion gallons.
AFPA officials began taking pressure readings with regular JP-8 fuel April 23 and will take additional system readings with the synthetic fuels in June.
"The JP-8 test is a baseline for the tests that will be done with the synthetic fuel to see if there is any significant difference in the operation of the infrastructure," said Tom Harmon, the AFPA logistics manager at Wright-Patterson AFB.
Officials from AFPA along with military fueling service Robert and Company are conducting tests on the infrastructure of the Type-III hydrant fueling systems at Sheppard AFB.
Currently, the only formally certified aircraft for alternative fuel are the B-52 Stratofortress, C-17 Globemaster III, B-1B Lancer and F-15 Eagle for non-combat operations, with full F-15 certification expected within weeks. Full certifications for the KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-10 Extender are pending and may occur by the end of fiscal 2009.
"There has been no significant difference to date using the synthetic fuel," said Harmon, who has worked closely with the certification process.
Shell Oil Inc. produced the synthetic fuel being shipped to Sheppard AFB for the evaluation. The fuel is produced through the Fischer-Tropsch process using natural gas as a feedstock.