Shell says it’s the first major oil company to develop a lead-free replacement for aviation gasoline (Avgas 100 and 100LL), which will now begin a strict regulatory approvals process.
Avgas is one of the last common transportation fuels to contain lead and is used by light aircraft and helicopters. Shell’s new lead-free formulation comes after 10 years of research and development, as well as successful initial testing, carried out in the last two months by two original equipment manufacturers. Aviation engine manufacturer Lycoming Engines evaluated the formulation in industry laboratory engine (bench) tests and light aircraft manufacturer Piper Aircraft conducted a test flight.
Avgas currently includes lead in its formulation to meet fuel specifications and boost combustion performance (known as Motor Octane rating). Shell has developed an unleaded Avgas that meets all key Avgas properties and that has a Motor Octane rating of over 100, an industry standard. Shell says the development of a technically and commercially-viable unleaded Avgas that meets these criteria has been seen by the aviation industry as a significant challenge, due to the tight specifications and strict flight safety standards that it has to adhere to.
Shell says it will now engage the aviation industry, regulators and authorities, including the US Federal Aviation Administration, American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to achieve approvals for the unleaded Avgas. Shell expects to also work with other OEMs to continue the testing and refinement program as the approvals process progresses.
Last month biofuel developer LanzaTech become the first company in the world to have its jet fuel certified by the independent Roundtable on Sustainable Biomass.