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Jet Fuel Fungus

 

The Jet Fuel Fungus Problem

Microbes thrive wherever there is food and water. Aviation fuel systems are therefore ideal habitats for bacteria, yeasts and moulds. Bugs which grow unchecked can block fuel filters, cause gauging problems and are so corrosive, they can damage the aircraft tank structure.

 

FUELSTAT®, The Aviation Fuel Test

With the FUELSTAT® aviation on site fuel test all you need is 10 minutes, a flat, clean surface, a pair of latex gloves & a 200 ml sample to discover which bugs are living in your fuel. The easy to interpret, pregnancy-style test gives a negligible, low or high reading which corresponds to the limits laid down in the IATA Guidance Material on Microbial Contamination in Aviation Fuel tanks. This clearly indicates the aircraft’s fuel system status, and what action to take, if any.

Read further in detail of FUELSTAT® and The Jet Fuel Fungus
We do not utilise the traditional growth methods employed by all the other “rapid” tests currently on the market. Our test is an immunoassay test (rather like a pregnancy test). This means that we detect contamination by “finding” material that is produced by our target organism during growth on fuel. We do not, therefore, need to capture a part of the living organism and grow it up. This is important as the fungus we detect (Hormoconis resinae, also known as Cladosporium resinae or the jet fuel fungus) does not just float around at the water/fuel interface, it actually sticks to the bottom or sides of the tank. It is also important as our compound is spread throughout the liquid in the tank, not just at the interface. There is, therefore, a better chance of finding that compound in a small sample. The result is a more accurate and consistent answer.

We go for the single target organism because it is the most dangerous (which is why it is the one name that most people in the industry will know) and it is present in the vast majority of cases of significant contamination (somewhere in the mid 90s per cent). We also only detect the fungus if it has been growing in fuel – the kit will ignore any fungus that has been blown in from outside or has been growing on trees or other food source. The other tests will grow whatever they find in the sample – whether it came from the fuel or not. They require sterile sampling conditions, we just require that the sample equipment is clean (i.e. has no residue from the last test sample).

The FUELSTAT® resinae on site fuel test takes 10 minutes to operate. Most tests take a minimum of 2 to 3 days to give a full picture of bacterial contamination. As fungal spores will not even show significant growth before 4 days a complete answer using traditional growth techniques takes five to seven days. During that time most of our competitor products have to be incubated, and many have to be monitored daily.

The results of most of our competitors are deduced either by comparing colours or spot numbers with a chart or (if you need to be very accurate) counting under a microscope. In our test you look at the two lateral flow devices on the test kit paddle and read off whether you have negligible (we never say nil), moderate or heavy contamination. The levels for moderate and heavy contamination appear in the IATA guidelines.

Most of our competitor kits require special handling, certainly for safe disposal. Ours (apart from the fuel itself of course) can be disposed of in the nearest bin when the test is finished or recycled if your company has a plastics recycling policy.


 

The Jet Fuel Fungus Solution

There is no magic bullet to eliminate the problem. A multi-disciplinary approach to fuel hygiene is the key to avoiding the inconvenience and cost of a contaminated fuel tank. Good fuel hygiene entails implementing a risk assessed “rigid housekeeping regime”. The risk of contamination is increased in hot, humid conditions, especially where fuel comes from a source that has fewer quality control checks. Each airline should carry out its own risk assessment to establish an optimum regime. The selected regime should consist of regular water drain checks and at least an annual test of the fuel in every tank, followed by an appropriate fuel tank treatment, if required. Moderate levels of contamination require the use of an approved biocide. Heavy levels of contamination require the tank to emptied, cleaned and a biocide applied.