Oil Co. Shares Good News About Unleaded Avgas

Swedish oil executive tells Santa Monica Airport audience that 90 percent of piston-powered planes could fly on a safe unleaded fuel his company has made for two decades.

The U.S. government's sputtering search for an unleaded fuel for piston-powered general aviation aircraft should focus on Sweden, where the stuff has been made since 1991.

At least that's the opinion of Lars Hjelmberg, founder of Sweden's Hjelmco Oil. He contends that more than 90 percent of the world's piston aircraft can safely use his unleaded fuel, called 91/96 UL.

It's been in production for 21 years and is widely available at airports in Sweden and Western Europe. Engine makers such as Continental and Lycoming have cleared 91/96 UL for use in many products that power U.S. aircraft. Hjelmberg said it's rated at nearly 100 octane and can be safely used in planes such as the ubiquitous Cessna 172 and twin-engine aircraft like the Piper Twin Comanche and Piper Seminole.

The oil company chief presented his case at Santa Monica Airport's on Saturday and said the presentation can be seen online this week at hjelmco.com.

Sixteen years after the U.S. banned lead in automobile gasoline, the Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Aviation Administration say they're still searching for a viable unleaded aviation gasoline, known as avgas.

Just two days before Hjelmberg's presentation, the FAA announced its plan to find a non-leaded aircraft fuel for most piston-engine private planes by 2018, to replace the current standard leaded fuel, 100LL.

Hjelmberg contends the FAA wants to wait for an unleaded fuel that could be used by 99 percent of piston-powered planes rather than the 90 percent that could use his company's product now.

"Why do we have to reinvent the wheel, when the solution is already here?" Hjelmberg asked rhetorically.

He predicted that, over time, the other 10 percent of the piston fleet would benefit from improved engines, along with research to further boost the octane of unleaded AVGAS. That would leave just a tiny fraction of piston planes still using leaded fuel, such as historic military or racing aircraft.

The EPA's most recent data, from 2008, says private piston-powered planes account for about 57 percent of lead emissions in the U.S. Last week, the Center for Biological Diversity announced it will sue the EPA to enforce lead emission standards. Another group, Friends of the Earth, filed a similar suit in March.

Hjelmberg acknowledged the challenge of making and distributing unleaded avgas in the U.S. He said the effort that brought about a ban on leaded car gas provides a model.

"It was not the oil companies that brought it to a head, it was the politicians," he said. "They have to ask for it and create incentives—reducing or eliminating taxes on the [unleaded] fuel for a certain period, for example."

"The FAA should do something similar as in Europe to help create the market," he added.

Hjelmberg's presentation was applauded by two audience members who have sharp disagreements on most aviation issues.

"I'd like to see it get going," said flight school owner Joe Justice. "Overall, lead is bad [public relations] and no company can survive a long time with bad p.r."

John Fairweather, head of Community Against Santa Monica Airport Traffic, said he hopes the Santa Monica Airport can play a role in the push for unleaded avgas.

"Let's just all agree that there's health impacts... and there's a good reason to get rid of all this stuff," he said.

Glenn E Grab July 02, 2012 at 03:03 PM
what happens when a plane using unleaded gas crashes into the neighborhood?... on takeoff
Greg Fry July 02, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Same as it always does--it doesn't remove that threat to the neighborhood one bit!
Ariel Pilot July 02, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Here we go. More talk of "waaaah waaaah I dont like the big scary planes"
JeanB July 02, 2012 at 08:03 PM
When asked why the US is so far behind Europe in this area, the presenter said said the issue was economic not technical, nobody wanted to take the risk or make the investment. As mentioned above 57% of all the lead pollution in this country (including from Industrial uses, power generation, and automobiles) comes from the GA aviation fleet, even though the amount of fuel used by the AVGAS community is around 0.5% of the TOTAL amount of automobile gasoline used in this country. The presenter's charts showed that lead pollution levels in California, Texas, and Florida are particularly high (over 25 short tons/year) due to the large GA activity in those states.
Brian R. Bland July 03, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Here's a better link to Hjelmco Oil's information about its avgas: http://www.hjelmco.com/pages.asp?r_id=13395
tom kahlert July 03, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Will Lyc IO-540 and TCM IO-520/550 run on this stuff?
Bart July 03, 2012 at 08:03 PM
"When asked why the US is so far behind Europe in this area, the presenter said said the issue was economic not technical, nobody wanted to take the risk or make the investment." Not true! No one is willing to try to sell a fuel not approved by the FAA for use in current aircraft engines. It has nothing to do with economics and everything to do with the inability of the FAA to come to grips with this issue. It's easy to say 90% of the airplanes in the current fleet can use this fuel and just throw the other 10% away! The problem is about 30% of the current fleet, including that 10% he just wrote off, use the largest percentage of the total fuel consumed by a large margin. The majority of the remainder can use unleaded auto fuel, except they can't because of the EPA mandate to adulterate it with ethanol. This isn't a simple problem and there is no simple solution. By the way, how many piston engine airplanes operate in Europe, compared to the US? About 1/10 as many and most of them don't require the use of 100 octane fuel. This guy is a salesman trying to pump up a market for something he sells!
Dean Billing July 04, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Pretty ironic that Hjelmco's gasoline products have TEL in them, because they are ASTM D910 products. Granted there is much less TEL that 100LL but they are still a leaded avgas and I wonder what Lars will be selling when the single producer of TEL in the world stops making it? Neither Hjelmco nor any producer in the U.S. makes a truly unleaded avgas to any of the specs available, ASTM D6227, ASTM D7547 or ASTM D7592, and ASTM D6227 is the only avgas spec approved in any TC'd U.S. aircraft, and its approval is through the STC process.
Paul Chavez July 04, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Those lawsuits sounds interesting. I wonder if they are intended to speed up the FAA's 2018 deadline for replacing leaded aviation fuel or seeking some other type of enforcement? FAA definitely thinks long term. That report came out in 2008 and they're looking for implementation in 2018.
Arend Rietkerk July 04, 2012 at 03:09 AM
All that is required is for Lycoming and Continetal to take their engines to Zuffenhausen and ask 'em how do I make these run on unleaded ? Worked great for Harley Davidson, why shouldn't it for Lycoming and Continental.
Edward Nigma July 04, 2012 at 05:33 AM
For whom the bell tolls Paul Chavez
Ed of So Cal July 04, 2012 at 05:43 AM
The self anointed ecological saviors of the earth proceed with their religious mission to save th world from humanity. If the removal of a tiny sliver of lead it he air means the death of a few of who they derisively refer to as "useless eaters" then they feel doubly victorious. Why must they eliminate they higher octane low lead fuel? It is their religious purity that is at stake. The irrational fervor of those who seek to single mindedly eliminate low lead higher octane fuel can only be explained by their religious anti-lead imperative. The garbage of eliminating 100LL from existence simply excludes from its real consideration the impact on we who fly aircraft; these are they who pretend to be thoughtful yet who consider weblogs to be parasitic destroyers of th earth. How incredibly arrogant!
Lars Gleitsmann July 04, 2012 at 09:06 AM
Gee its not THAT easy. You cant compare those small engines. All this hype about AVGAS is Pure BS and just political. This fuel is ONE QUARTER OF A PERCENT of the USA fuel use !!! The fight against AVGAS is nothing else but trying to kill GA dead. A small noisy radical group is lawsuiting the EPA: Now anybody can make news laws by sueing the Feds? Gee!
Lars Gleitsmann July 04, 2012 at 09:11 AM
Heck no they wont... and isn't it that one of the main ingredients of the Hjelmco fuel is outlawed in the USA for many years now? The Lead ( TEL ) supply is NOT a problem and It will not be a problem, I just met with one of the producers ' - no worry there. The worry IS that the EPA mandates Methanol to be used in carfuel and that is destructive in every aspect: they burn more diesel than they produce Alcohol in the process etc. The EPA Methanol-fuel mandate needs to be struck down!
Greg Smith July 04, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Would it be possible to have an at the pump injector like what is used for prist in jet fuel? For an airplane that does not need lead, you get just fuel. For an airplane that needs lead, just turn on the pump for an additive that boost the lead/ octane. Does this sound to easy to work?
Glenn E Grab July 04, 2012 at 03:41 PM
when a motorcycle is low on power, it's just an inconvience....when it's an airplane, people get killed..
Glenn E Grab July 04, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Brian, Hjelmco has a huge financial stake in this issue, don't you get it?...what do you think they're going to say?...
Glenn E Grab July 04, 2012 at 04:36 PM
yeah, one more reason for a plane to crash....
Paul Chavez July 04, 2012 at 05:34 PM
I hear you Edward Nigma.
Carter July 04, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Those that wish to destroy GA are hard at it. The lead in fuel isn't the issue. Its the freedom of movement, which is anathema, to their movement. They know what is good for you and you must bend to their will, Or, you will suffer the consequences. Certain greedy parties, Center for Biological Diversity, are facilitating their social programs in order to enrich their own coffers. You can look them up on the internet and see how much money they have raked in by suing every group they can think of in the name of ecological progress. Your average American is fed a diet of BS by the media and they just let this group ruin their lives. Hmmm, I wonder why they don't sue the Chinese companies that pollute at will. India and China make the USA look like the garden of Eden. If they were really worried about Biological Diversity or the worlds ecology they would be putting pressure on the worlds real polluters. (China, Russia, India) I guess its too hard to collect ecological "Penalities" in those countries isn't it. I imagine if they were really interested in improving the world they would fund R & D efforts with some of their ill gotten gains. Naaah, I'm sure they need the money to fund their own personal "Projects."
Dustin Paulson July 05, 2012 at 01:11 PM
I would love to see the base fuel stock used for making 100LL made available before the lead is added. I believe it is then 94 octane, which is plenty for my, and most lower compression GA engines which are actually harmed by the lead fouling of plugs, valve guides, and the lead sludge that forms in our engines when we are forced to use the only fuel available at most airports. Unleaded auto gas is only sparsely available, and it isn't refined to near the standard as the fuel that the sweet smelling 100LL is, so consequently it stinks like auto gas, and doesn't have near the storage life of 100L either. It seems like until a 100LL alternative is decided on, that the 94 UL base avgas could be made available along with containers of a leaded octane booster made available to the owners of planes that actually need it for their planes, which reportedly is about 10% of the GA fleet, but who use about 30% of the 100LL fuel.
William Bahn July 06, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Swift fuel appears to have both no lead and is made from non petroleum sources such as switch grass or sorgham and has 104 octane. Work needs to be increased on getting this product on the market. They also hope it will cost less than the current 100LL. It is also made here in the USA.
Dean Billing July 11, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Lars G - what main ingredient of Hjelmco fuel is outlawed in the USA? If the fuel is meets ASTM D910, then it is legal avgas in the U.S. Who did you meet that is "... one of the producers ..." of TEL? There is only one producer of TEL for avgas, Innospec in England and after next year their only customer for TEL will be avgas and that market is insignificant and declining every year.
Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil July 16, 2012 at 12:57 PM
No fuels are without lead, because lead comes with the crude in small amounts. The definition of unleaded does not mean a fuel is without lead. So unleaded car gasoline is not free of lead. Hjelmco must add lead into their AVGAS because today the ASTM D910 mandates it , however as D910 does not have any requirement of a minimum content of lead the lead content may be so small that it meets the specification of beeing "unleaded" and this is how the unleaded Hjelmco AVGAS is today. Before D910 madated lead, the Hjelmco unleaded AVGAS was produced for many years with only the traces of lead coming from the crude and aircraft and engines ran perfectly also during that period of time. For a quality certificate see: http://www.hjelmco.com/upl/files/50815.pdf
Lars Hjelmberg Hjelmco Oil July 16, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Bart - not true. The Hjelmco unleaded AVGAS 91/98UL meets todays and earlier revisions of US standard ASTM D910 for grade 91/98. The standard does not stipulate any minimum amount of lead so grade 91/98 may by definition be unleaded. The only difference to the standard is that the Hjelmco fuel is undyed because our national legislation does not permit unleaded fuels to be dyed. However dye is not a performance issue. Our fuel could easily be dyed to orange as D910 stipulates if this is required in the US. Hjelmco is not throwing the remaining 10 % away. Hjelmco has for 3+ decades been maintaing a dual fuel system in Scandinavia serving 130+ airports with BOTH 100 LL and unleaded AVGAS 91/96 UL (91/98 UL) See also : http://www.hjelmco.com/pages.asp?r_id=13432
Michael F Winthrop December 23, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Well Said!


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