The business of on-airport refuelling continues to evolve, as new technology becomes available, new gateways are constructed that require associated fuelling infrastructure and as requirements change. The big into-aircraft fuel suppliers are keeping up though
One of the big names in on-airport fuel provision is Cavotec, whose UK managing director Gary Matthews also wears a number of other hats – amongst them serving as the company’s market unit manager for its Airports unit (Cavotec’s other units are Ports & Maritime and General Industry).
The big news of late for Cavotec’s airport-based fuelling business concerns its deal with Ordinat, the Izmir-based fuel system installation specialist, for Cavotec to provision approximately 800 fuel pits at what is currently known as Istanbul New Airport (the massive gateway being constructed and operated by Istanbul Grand Airport, or IGA). Each hydrant includes pipework, under-hydrant ball valve and hydrant valve. It represents the biggest new airport fuelling system project under way anywhere around the world, Matthews points out.
The order was signed in June this year, and Cavotec has already begun manufacturing the systems. Deliveries of fuel hydrant pits, fuel valve isolation chamber covers, fuel low point drains and high point vent pits will continue in a phased process until the end of 2017, Matthews confirms.
In addition to the Istanbul order, Cavotec also recently secured the purchase order for pits to be located in the Midfield expansion of Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA). This project will involve approximately 80 fuel hydrant pits, 20 fuel valve isolation chamber covers, 60 fuel low point drains and high point vent pits. Cavotec will begin supplying the systems this year and continue the process into next year.
FULL FUNCTIONAL RESPONSIBILITY
Cavotec does more than manufacture and supply airfield refuelling systems and equipment. It offers a full range of at-gate, at-hangar or on-stand support services – involving not only fuelling, but pre-conditioned air (PCA), 400Hz power and ‘wet’ services such as handling fresh water provision and lavatory water changes. “We can do the stand layout and design for the in-ground pit systems; on some projects we have carried out the installation, or we can just supervise installation, as well as provide all the equipment,” Matthews explains.
Acting as a one-stop shop, Cavotec will offer the customer performance guarantees, adopting what Matthews describes as “full functional responsibility”. Given that Cavotec can manufacture and supply the majority of the equipment itself, alongside acting as a systems integrator, it is well placed to do so, he notes.
And it is not just in the civil market that Cavotec offers its wares. It includes many military customers amongst its client list, supplying hydrant systems and pantographs to support the unique needs of military customers – some of whom require, for instance, ‘hot fuelling’, the potentially dangerous process of refuelling an aircraft while its engines remain running.
Another on-airport fuel supplier growing its presence in this market is Air BP, which – it says – “continues to expand its network worldwide so that customers can source Air BP reliability at even more locations”. Indeed, Air BP has added 200 new global locations over just the last two years.
Air BP announced at last year’s National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convention a new partnership with fixed-base operator (FBO) Signature Flight Support, and the implementation of that collaboration was completed in August this year. The Signature deal added 62 new FBOs in the US to the Air BP network, which, a spokesperson remarks, “firmly positioned the business in the world’s largest general aviation market”.
In addition, Air BP has maintained a number of joint ventures in other countries. It is, for example, the only international company to have a fuel joint venture in China. “We also work in a joint venture with LOTOS in Poland and we continue to strengthen our presence through investment in South America – in June this year, we signed a 50/50 joint venture with PBF in Peru, which gives us entry into a third South American country (we were already present in Chile and Brazil),” the spokesperson says.
Going a little further back, Air BP acquired Statoil’s aviation fuels business in 2014, which added a further 73 airport locations in the Nordic countries to its global network. The acquisition strengthened Air BP’s presence in a number of locations in the region, particularly in Norway.
“Air BP carefully evaluates all its business relationships in order to form successful ventures,” says the company. “Working with companies that have high-quality services ensures that we are able to provide our customers with the best service and maintain the standards they expect.”
As traffic volumes at airports around the world increase and airlines want ever-more efficient turnarounds, “guaranteeing a reliable delivery of fuel means that all parts of the fuel system need to be maintained and expanded to operate at increased volumes – from storage capacity to hydrants”, the Air BP spokesperson explains. “Any disruption to an airport’s ability to refuel aircraft can disable an airport’s ability to operate; failure to deliver effectively shuts it down.
“An airport operator therefore needs to be able to rely on its fuel supplier. To provide this level of support, the fuel supplier has to have the technical experience and expertise to understand what can go wrong and where, and what preventative controls can be put in place.”
Air BP’s own Technical Services offers specialist technical teams that are available 24/7 and are able to respond to incidents that occur in the 48 countries where Air BP operates. Furthermore, in such an eventuality, as well as testing the fuel Air BP can audit the airport and develop an improvement plan. It is also not uncommon for the Air BP teams to provide technical support to airlines in instances where an aircraft has taken fuel of an inconsistent quality and experienced problems with its fuel system as a result.
In fact, “Air BP Technical Services can support customers with a complete aviation fuel consultancy service,” the spokesperson says. This embraces design, build and maintenance of fuel facilities; management and operation of fuel facilities; setting and maintaining standards; audits and inspections; essential technical documentation; product quality and operational support; and advising on carbon footprint reduction in ground operations.
Air BP has looked to offer creative and innovative solutions in regard to the challenges of minimising the environmental impact of on-airport fuelling. A range of measures introduced in this regard include the supply of Biojet, the supply of unleaded avgas and offering assistance with voluntary carbon offsetting (including compliance with the requirements of European Emission Trading), as well as simply lowering emissions resulting from refuelling operations at airports.
In January, Air BP – working together with Norwegian airport operator Avinor and biofuel specialist SkyNRG – collaborated to successfully deliver jet biofuel from the airport’s main fuel farm via the existing hydrant mechanism. This, the company says, marked the first time that aviation biofuel had been delivered through the normal supply mechanism, thereby reducing logistics costs significantly. “Air BP demonstrated that airports can readily access biofuel with relative ease, utilising existing physical infrastructure,” says the spokesperson. “Air BP anticipates that this will increase interest and demand, as well as contribute to a biofuel future for the aviation sector.”
In May, Air BP launched its new Environmental Solutions offering at this year’s European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE). The offer provides capabilities and knowledge to help customers achieve their carbon reduction goals through ‘reduce, replace and neutralise’ carbon emissions initiatives.
Plus, as part of a wider Carbon Management plan, Air BP is also developing new technologies to support green refuelling operations over and above into-aircraft fuelling. “It is developing biofuel supply chain opportunities; changing internal day-to-day operations; and establishing initiatives that aim to influence behaviour, and attitudes, to carbon reduction within the industry,” the spokesperson adds.
Hamburg-headquartered AFS Aviation Fuel Services has undergone major changes of late. Last year, globally active ground handling services provider Swissport acquired the shares of BP Europe, thereby becoming AFS’s major shareholder. German flag-carrier Lufthansa remained its second co-shareholder.
According to AFS sales manager Julien Touvron: “This shareholder structure opens up great opportunities in the fuelling market for the future. Swissport’s global network will help to create a very interesting new outlook for the airlines in terms of an optimised one-stop-shop perspective.”
Touvron continues: “Because of the former shareholding structure, AFS has been traditionally based in Germany and Austria, but now we look forward to expand our network. Meanwhile, the fuelling market in Europe is undergoing significant changes in regard to many of the oil companies – traditional owners of the fuelling assets on airports – withdrawing from the business and increasingly focusing on the marketing of jet fuel. We are beginning to see conditions similar to the US market, where many oil companies have fully left the apron. Therefore, the market is in strong need of independent fuelling service providers being able to offer performance, quality and the safety standards of the oil industry.”
As we have seen at Air BP, so at AFS: “Environmental protection and safety are key issues for us,” Touvron observes. “In AFS’s day-to-day business, strict operational procedures are followed to prevent leakages and pollution of any kind. To offer one example: We have almost completed the conversion of our truck fleet on start/stop technology. Furthermore, AFS is co-operating in several biofuel projects, in order to be prepared for the future of our industry. Airports and leading airlines are piloting the change, and, AFS – as the German market leader – has to be part of this process.”
Moreover: “AFS always looks out for new technologies in order to increase safety and efficiency,” Touvron reports. “Safety in terms of implementing no-dead-angle cameras and other safety devices. Efficiency in terms of supporting data capture and the transfer of fuelling tickets from the truck to the cockpit and fuel department of the customer, which provides a more efficient and transparent fuelling process.
“The industry is moving into a tablet-based era, which will make the trucks lighter (without the heavy onboard computer), cheaper and operationally more efficient. AFS actively supports this transformation in collaboration with leading airlines.”
As to the role of research and development: “R&D obviously plays a key role in implementation of new technologies, creating a competitive advantage for our customers,” he says. “AFS sets its focus on the core business – fuelling. We work closely with selected partners to prepare our future (in terms of such matters as IT, truck equipment and filter technology).
“AFS is an active member of the IATA Technical Fuel Group and intends to remain there to support the development of the industry through offering our practical experience.
“We also have HSSE (health, safety security and environment) and IT experts and engineers specialised in fuel trucks, all able to develop specifications, determine our needs and then manage our suppliers in these areas,” Touvron concludes.