Biofuel-blended ATF to fire IAF fleet in test run over two years

After successfully flying its transport aircraft AN-32 with Jatropha-blended ATF (aviation turbine fuel), the Indian Air Force is now looking to test its entire fleet of helicopters, transport aircraft and fighter jets to fly on biofuel-blended ATF over the next two years. To secure a constant supply, the Centre is in the process of setting up 1,000-litre-a-day biofuel plants in five States.

On January 26, an AN-32 powered by 10% biofuel-blended ATF flew at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi. There will now be similar tests across the IAF fleet. Though at present the IAF uses biofuel derived from Jatropha in Chhattisgarh, 68 tree-based oils from across the country are being considered for the blend in India. “Standardisation for biofuel has been completed. After the successful test on AN32, we will be flying MI-17 helicopters and Dorniers with the biofuel blend, and will later extend it to fighter jets. The IAF will spend close to ₹200 crore on testing the blend on its fleet in the next two years,” said a senior officer at the Air War Strategy Cell in the office of the Chief of Air Staff.

The authorities expect to receive certification for testing on AN-32 from the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC) in a month. The blending experiments were conducted at the Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehradun. Among others, the IAF is testing performance of engine and rubberised parts on flight and also ground testing aircraft fuelled by biofuel. “We will be constantly testing the aircraft after every 100 hours of flying for any possible changes,” a source said.

Five plants

At present, according to sources, the IAF consumes about 100 crore litres of ATF annually, and successful testing of 10% biofuel-blended ATF will mean the country has to produce at least 10 crore litre of biofuel annually. The target, for the IAF and the government, is to reduce the cost from about ₹190 a litre of biofuel to about ₹60 through commercialisation of production. The Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas will drive this project.

While the IAF will be testing its fleet for biofuel consumption, the Centre is preparing the ground for supply of biofuel blend across five States. Plans are afoot to use Nahar in Assam, Sal in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, Pongamia in Karnataka, and Jatropha in Chhattisgarh. The IAF is also funding technology development at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre for hydro generators that are required for production of biofuel.

“We want to use locally available tree oils and each plant will have a daily capacity of 1,000 litres to start with. We are hoping the biofuel plants will be operational in six to nine months,” another source said.

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 10:19:54 PM |

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