Go back in time, and you'd find commercial jets relying heavily on gasoline or petrol.
However, with the increase in cost, and the way taxes are applied on fuel, airlines decided to switch to a special fuel called jet fuel.
Also, the cost factor was exponentially high because bigger airplanes had a lightning-fast consumption of traditional fuel (e.g. Boeing 747 reportedly consumed 4 litres of fuel per second!).
As a result, aeroplanes needed a unique blend of fuel with different properties to facilitate the overall flying experience.
This is where jet fuel came in. So, what makes jet fuel different from gasoline or petrol?
In this post, we’ll discuss different aspects of jet fuel to highlight what makes jet fuel different.
An Overview Of Different Types of Jet Fuel
Aircraft rely on jet fuel to power their journey. Different types of jet fuels are tailored to the different needs of an aircraft.
Here’s a breakdown of different types of jet fuels.
1. Jet Fuel (Jet A and Jet A-1)
Primarily derived from crude oil, Jet A and Jet A-1 are the most commonly used type of jet fuels worldwide, especially for commercial jet aviation.
The freezing points are the primary difference between Jet A and Jet A-1. Jet A is primarily used in the United States, while Jet A-1 is used globally.
Jet A-1 has a lower freezing point of approximately -47°C (-53°F), making it ideal for extended international journeys and activities in chillier regions.
Due to being kerosene-based, these fuels have higher flash points than other aviation fuels, making them safer to handle.
2. AVGAS (Aviation Gasoline)
AVGAS is a high-octane gasoline designed especially for aircraft with piston engines which usually run at higher power settings and lower revolutions per minute than car engines.
Unlike jet fuels primarily used in turbine-engine aircraft, AVGAS is used in piston-engine planes.
AVGAS consists of additives such as tetraethyl lead and is famous for its vibrant blue colour.
3. Jet B
Jet B is one of the types of jet fuel made from approximately 30% gasoline and 70% kerosene.
This unique mixture allows it to retain favourable traits from both components while mitigating their respective limitations.
In regions with cold temperatures, Jet B is the ideal choice for fuel.
Due to its composition, it has a significantly lower freezing point compared to other jet fuels, ensuring operational reliability even in sub-zero conditions.
Although it has uncountable advantages, due to its higher flammability than Jet A-1, it requires special handling.
Therefore, aircraft that rely on it need to follow transport protocols and ensure specialised storage.
Jet B is rarely used except in specific areas like certain parts of Canada.
TS-1 is produced due to the distillation and purification processes applied to Kerosene.
Consequently, this fuel type is highly refined with a specific formulation free from any gasoline element, making it suitable for the Russian aviation landscape.
Russia's cold climatic conditions demand the type of fuel that is capable of performing in severe cold weather.
TS-1, with its pure kerosene composition, meets this requirement effectively, making it the fuel of choice for aviation in this country.
TS-1's lower viscosity ensures it flows smoothly even in cold temperatures.
This advantage, combined with its reduced freezing point compared to Jet A-1, positions TS-1 as a reliable choice for operations in colder climates.
JP-8 is a carefully designed engineered blend, tailored to meet the specific needs of the U.S. military.
It has orginiated from a mixture of refined petroleum fractions, carefully selected to enhance performance and safety.
While it is primarily intended to power military aircraft, JP-8’s versatility goes beyond basic aviation.
It effectively fuels various military vehicles and equipment, showing its adaptability in a diverse range of scenarios.
JP-8 is similar to commercial Jet A-1 in composition but has corrosion inhibitors and anti-icing additives, increasing the equipment's life and reliability in challenging conditions.
Moreover, its low flammability ensures safety in battlefield conditions.
What Type of Fuels Do Planes Use These Days?
Wondering what type of fuels do planes use these days?
The type of fuel used in planes mainly depends on the aircraft's design and the nature of its flights.
Entering the predominant scenario in modern aviation, specific fuel types have become crucial for various flights.
For the vast majority of commercial flights, Jet A-1 is the fuel of choice for the majority of commercial flights.
This is particularly true for long-haul international flights, where the fuel's properties meet the rigorous demands of extended flight durations and varying climatic conditions.
However, with the passage of time, the aviation industry aims to reduce its carbon footprint and environmental impact.
So what type of fuels do planes use in such conditions in 2023?
- Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)
Sustainable Aviation Fuel is a combination of conventional jet fuel and renewable jet fuel produced from sustainable sources.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel can potentially reduce emissions by up to 80%.
It can be produced from a range of materials including waste oils of biological origin, agri residues or non-fossil CO2.
Although the blend ratio can vary, the goal is to increase the proportion of SAF over time.
Some aviation companies are also researching hydrogen as a potential fuel source for aircraft.
There are two ways in which hydrogen can be used in fuel cells.
It can either be burned directly in jet engines or used to produce electricity.
It has the potential to significantly reduce CO2 emissions, but challenges related to production, distribution, and onboard storage need to be addressed.
While still in the initial stages of development, several companies have started working on electric and hybrid aircraft for shorter routes.
These aircraft use electric batteries and a combination of fuel and batteries in the case of hybrid ones.
What Makes Jet Fuel Different From Gasoline?
Wondering what makes jet fuel different from gasoline?
Jet fuel and gasoline are both derived from crude oil but are prepared to meet the specific needs of their respective engines and operating conditions.
Here's a breakdown of some of the key differences between the two.
1. Boiling Point And Stability
When it comes to boiling point and stability, jet fuel has a higher boiling point than gasoline.
The higher boiling point is vital because jets often operate at higher altitudes with freezing cold temperatures.
As the boiling point of jet fuel is higher than gasoline, it ensures that it remains in its liquid state and does not freeze over time and damage the aircraft’s fuel system.
Additionally, jet fuel's composition makes it more stable over a range of conditions as it is composed to withstand fluctuating temperatures and be stored for longer durations.
Whereas, gasoline's lower boiling point suits the requirements of ground vehicles and doesn't need the extensive stability features of jet fuel.
2. Flash Point & Safety
The temperature of the fuel at which it releases vapours that can be ignited with an open flame is known as its flash point.
Jet fuel's flash point is quite higher than that of gasoline. This characteristic ensures that jet fuel is less likely to ignite spontaneously at ground temperatures, providing an added safety margin during refuelling, handling, or in the event of a spill.
On the other hand, gasoline's lower flash point makes it more suited for instantaneous ignition in automobile engines, but it's also why gasoline is considered more hazardous to handle.
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The complex world of aviation, combining tech, planning, and human effort, is controlled by the type of fuel we choose for our aircraft.
Now that you know what makes jet fuel different from gasoline, it is essential to remember that jet fuel ensures maximum safety, efficiency, and sustainability for aircraft so the development of jet fuels remains an essential part of our journey.
Not just as a source of power, but as a piece of evidence of the industry's commitment to adapt, innovate, and lead in an ever-changing world.
This discourse on jet fuels vs conventional fuel isn’t just a comparison; it’s a reflection of the evolution of fuel technology.