The State of the Jet Fuel Industry

The State of the Jet Fuel Industry

by Rob Whitworth

Rob WhitworthJet fuel, or kerosene, is one of the most dynamic refined products in the petroleum market today. Demand for historic jet fuel and kerosene by-products remains strong. In fact, the demand for jet fuel has increased with the number of commercial, cargo, and general aviation aircraft becoming a bigger part of global commerce.

Yet, there is only so much jet fuel that a refinery can obtain out of a barrel of crude, especially with growing demand. Demand within an individual refinery determines what by-products come from the total volume of kerosene produced. 

Kerosene is very versatile. Fractions of kerosene can be removed to make the basic compounds which are building blocks for chemicals. Kerosene can lower the Pour Point (solidification) of diesel in freezing weather conditions. It is also used as mineral spirits in oil-based paints.  These uses of kerosene have been instituted for decades.

Kerosene, when used as jet fuel, undergoes many tests which are stringent with narrow specifications and requirements. With ever increasing environmental restrictions, diesel and home heating oil are now lower in sulfur than jet fuel. Lower sulfur in diesel has helped to increase jet fuel pricing through transport.

Physical transport infrastructure of jet fuel has been altered. The amounts of gasoline and diesel shipments are given precedence due to their size. The primary modes of transport for jet fuel are ships, barges, tank trucks, and pipelines; all of which have to meet the criteria to prevent contamination of the jet fuel.

Jet fuel chemically is still a very adaptable product to enhance versatility. There are actual tests being run where bio-based products are blended with jet fuel and being flown in aircraft. Jet fuel solubility with other products is a key to this success. Engine manufacturers, aircraft manufacturers, and the oil companies are working together to make a safe, renewable, and cost effective product. The other important part of this equation is the engine manufacturers, aircraft manufacturers, and the oil companies are combining efforts to make all portions of flight more efficient. This not only impacts fuel consumption but reduces the carbon footprint in the atmosphere.

There are more innovative options to come for the future to enhance our daily flying experience.       

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