New complex expedites refueling

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Erik Hofmeyer
  • 379 Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
A new petroleum, oil and lubricant complex here has commenced operations to meet the burgeoning growth of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing in support of the war on terrorism.

The $113 million complex, located near the north end of the flightline, boosts the capability needed to supply fuel for aircraft and base operations.

The previous process consisted of filling up the 6,000-gallon trucks at the old fill stands, driving out to the aircraft, refueling the aircraft, driving back to the "bladder farm" where fuel is stored in 200,000-gallon plastic tanks, then repeated hundreds of times each day.

"To put this in perspective, it takes five or six trucks to fill up a KC-135 Stratotanker," said Chief Master Sgt. Stanley Walker, the 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels manager.

Replacing the system was necessary to maintain an adequate and safe supply of aircraft fuel storage, said Capt. John Klohr, the 379th ELRS fuels management flight commander. This cost-effective and modernized system will cut the workload of deployed Airmen and ultimately require a smaller fleet of R-11 refueling trucks.

The fuel lifeline of the 379th ELRS begins with a "tank truck off-load facility" with eight off-loading headers for jet fuel, and one each for both diesel and unleaded gasoline. The facility is capable of offloading eight fuel trucks simultaneously at a faster rate than the expeditionary system currently being used, Chief Walker said.

The off-loading headers are covered, protecting fuels technicians from the elements. In addition, a slight dip in the parking area now exists to channel any spillage into a holding area, should any occur.

All fuel coming onto the base will be off-loaded at this point, and will eventually flow continuously from this location down to the fuel-thirsty aircraft, Chief Walker said.

Jet fuel is pumped from the trucks into a series of underground piping, which flows into two 50,000-gallon tanks. In turn, the tanks pump fuel to three 2.1-million-gallon storage tanks, he said.

The storage tanks will replace the bladders containing jet fuel in expeditionary environments, eliminating the possibility of the bladders rupturing. The upgraded steel tanks are encased in a concrete shell and covered with a shaped cap of dirt, Captain Klohr said.

In turn, these three tanks will feed 23 hydrant outlets, located on "parking spots" on the refueling ramp. The "hydrant pits" contain hydrant outlets concealed in strategically placed hatches on the refueling ramp. They will allow fuels technicians to expedite the refueling of wide-bodied aircraft by not having to use multiple truck operations that require many trips to the fuel stands for refueling, Chief Walker said.

"It's the same concept as fire hydrants in neighborhoods, where the fire department connects a hose to the hydrant to get water; we connect to the hydrant to get fuel," he said.

Refueling trucks can also refill their 6,000-gallon trucks without ever having to leave the flightline, equating to significant time savings and faster responses to refueling requests.

Refueling trucks can also refuel from the hydrants, and transport fuel to other parts of the base not connected to the system.

"This new system will provide superior fuel support to aircraft for many years to come," Chief Walker said. "We've worked extremely hard over the past seven months to bring this system online."

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