SECAF certifies synthetic fuel blends for B-52H

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jason Hernandez
  • 95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne announced the completion of the Air Force's certification of the Fischer-Tropsch fuel blend in the B-52H Stratofortress during a signing ceremony here Aug. 8.

The signing ceremony certified that the blended FT and JP-8 fuel is safe for operational use in all B-52H aircraft and marked the formal conclusion of testing.

"The demonstration approach approved by Secretary Wynne in April 2006 identified five execution steps," said Maj. Gen. Curtis Bedke, Air Force Flight Test Center commander. "The final execution step began on Sept. 19, 2006. A B-52 was flown at Edwards with two engines running synthetic fuel and the remaining six engines on JP-8 fuel. On Dec. 19 2006, the B-52 was flown with all eight engines on the FT blend."

The B-52H was chosen as the test platform because of key advantages such as its eight engines, he said. The fuel system can simultaneously isolate, carry and manage both a test fuel and the standard JP-8 fuel.

The Air Force plans to test and certify every airframe to fly on a domestically produced synthetic fuel blend by early 2011.

"When I asked that this development be done, the people at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and the Air Force Flight Test Center were excited to push this technology on behalf of the Air Force and America," said Secretary Wynne.

Every time the price of fuel goes up $10, it costs $600 million for the Air Force, he said.

"It causes angst to know that we're faced with a commodity that some might use against us," Secretary Wynne said. "We want to provide our nation a look forward to something else and to essentially join with numerous researchers who are looking for alternatives whether it is ethanol, switch grass, biomass or Fischer-Tropsch and finding the solution. I think it is going to be a tremendous partnership across the board."

One of the things planners are looking forward to is a clean coal to liquid manufacturing process, he said.

"It may involve several manufacturing steps to essentially neutralize carbon usage and get us to what we want," Secretary Wynne said. "We want a synthetic blend that will not interrupt the flow of fuel in our aircraft and airfields and will be a viable substitute."

A 50 percent blend appears to be the right answer, he said.

There are universities across the country trying to determine why we stopped at 50 percent, Secretary Wynne said.

"So the question is how do you bring this all to fruition?" he said. "For many years into the future, it is going to be very difficult to get more than a 50/50 blend on a real basis and not in a laboratory."

Testers are very pleased with the FT fuel's performance thus far, he said. The fuel may also reduce maintenance needs.

The next aircraft to be certified for FT fuel is the C-17 Globemaster III.

"This will be a bridge into the commercial arena," Secretary Wynne said. "We are being watched by many of our airline colleagues who are not only partnering with us, but researching our data. We have developed a rigorous process to qualify this fuel and any manufactured, processed synthetic fuel and blend."

The Air Force manual is being rewritten to highlight that there is a process to qualify alternative fuels within the Air Force, he said.

Recently, the Air Force ordered 281,000 gallons of synthetic fuel for further testing on the C-17 and B-1 Lancer engines in the coming year. NASA is also interested in synthetic fuels and will receive 9,000 gallons of synthetic fuel from the Air Force so they can begin evaluating its use in various engines and systems.

"This is the tip of the spear for national energy independence and cleaner energy," Secretary Wynne said. "It is doing well for the Air Force and the nation." 

For a 28-minute video, titled Inventing for the Future, that features this and other Air Force technology advancements, click here.

Comment on this story (comments may be published on Air Force Link)

Click here to view the comments/letters page