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SIoBiA – Safety Implications of Biofuels in Aviation

  • Biofuels potentially interesting also for aviation purposes are predominantly liquid fuels produced from biomass. The most common biofuels today are biodiesel and bioethanol. Since diesel engines are rather rare in aviation this survey is focusing on ethanol admixed to gasoline products. The Directive 2003/30/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of May 8th 2003 on the promotion of the use of biofuels or other renewable fuels for transport encourage a growing admixture of biogenic fuel components to fossil automotive gasoline. Some aircraft models equipped with spark ignited piston engines are approved for operation with automotive gasoline, frequently called “MOGAS” (motor gasoline). The majority of those approvals is limited to MOGAS compositions that do not contain methanol or ethanol beyond negligible amounts. In the past years (bio-)MTBE or (bio-)ETBE have been widely used as blending component of automotive gasoline whilst the usage of low-molecular alcohols like methanol or ethanol has been avoided due to the handling problems especially with regard to the strong affinity for water. With rising mandatory bio-admixtures the conversion of the basic biogenic ethanol to ETBE, causing a reduction of energetic payoff, becomes more and more unattractive. Therefore the direct ethanol admixture is accordingly favoured. Due to the national enforcements of the directive 2003/30/EC more oxygenates produced from organic materials like bioethanol have started to appear in automotive gasolines already. The current fuel specification EN 228 already allows up to 3 % volume per volume (v/v) (bio-)methanol or up to 5 % v/v (bio-)ethanol as fuel components. This is also roughly the amount of biogenic components to comply with the legal requirements to avoid monetary penalties for producers and distributors of fuels. Since automotive fuel is cheaper than the common aviation gasoline (AVGAS), creates less problems with lead deposits in the engine, and in general produces less pollutants it is strongly favoured by pilots. But being designed for a different set of usage scenarios the use of automotive fuel with low molecular alcohols for aircraft operation may have adverse effects in aviation operation. Increasing amounts of ethanol admixtures impose various changes in the gasoline’s chemical and physical properties, some of them rather unexpected and not within the range of flight experiences even of long-term pilots.

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Author:Thomas EschORCiD, Harald FunkeORCiD, Petra Roosen
Place of publication:Köln
Document Type:Report
Year of Completion:2010
Date of first Publication:2010/08/31
Date of the Publication (Server):2023/05/22
Length:279 Seiten
Analysis of the safety implications of the use of biofuels (ethanol admixture) for piston engines and general aviation aircraft and assessment of potential environmental benefits.
Institutes:FH Aachen / Fachbereich Luft- und Raumfahrttechnik
FH Aachen / ECSM European Center for Sustainable Mobility
collections:Verlag / EASA