Aviation Fuelling Hazardous Area Classification

Aviation Fuelling Hazardous Area Classification
Image: Refuelling a commercial plane. Pixabay.com/cegoh

The Energy Institute Research Report on Aviation Fuelling Hazardous Area Classification is now available on the EI website. RPS Principal Consultant Steve Sherwen, RPS Consultant Andrew Garrison and RPS Principal Consultant Jon Lowe from RPS Risk (Environmental Management) prepared the report last year after Steve, a member of the EI Area Classification Working Group was approached by the EI to bid to develop an authoritative hazardous area classification for aviation fuelling with Jet A-1. The scope of the task included to propose internationally acceptable direct examples intended to assist those involved in aviation fuel handling.

After winning the competitive bid process the RPS team undertook a literature review of all stakeholder documentation pertaining to aviation jet fuelling before meeting with stakeholders at Manchester Airport to review the findings where further additional practical information was gathered. The team visited the fuelling vehicle compound to get a more hands-on insight into the vehicles, equipment and safeguards and also witness the refuelling of an aircraft.

Modern aircraft burn around four litres of jet aviation fuel every second: requiring around 150,000 litres for a ten-hour flight. Jet A-1 is the most common fuel for commercial airlines and is considered to be explosive under certain conditions, hence why it is so good at propelling around six tons of aircraft down the runway and getting it airborne. Around 3.6bn passengers were expected to travel by air last year. Fuelling these flights is a significant part of the downstream oil business and ensuring its safety is a critical duty for fuel providers as much as for airlines.

As the jet fuel is potentially explosive, areas where it is handled must comply with the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmosphere Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) in the UK, ATEX in Europe and with similar regulations enforced in the rest of the world. These regulations place a requirement on users of dangerous or flammable substances, to control ignition sources where there is the potential for a flammable atmosphere to arise. Such an assessment is called a Hazardous Area Classification (HAC). Findings during the literature review revealed there are a number of different Hazardous Area Classifications around the aircraft during fuelling operations. These operations usually utilise either a refuelling tanker or a hydrant dispensing system built into the apron.

Through a well-coordinated combination of desktop reviews and activity observations the team was able to gain a greater understanding of associated hazards and potential release scenarios surrounding aircraft refuelling activity. From there, Andrew was then able to grapple the considerable task of collating all the information gathered through research and observations into initial credible and practical advice which was presented to the EI Aviation Committee at a meeting in Prague. The EI then sought and collated industry expert comments on the initial findings to be incorporated into the final Research Report produced by RPS.

The report was published in July 2017 acknowledging: “This EI Research Report was prepared by Andrew Garrison and Steve Sherwen of RPS Risk Management who are thanked for their significant contributions on this topic.” The hope is that this report will be used worldwide by operators and designers to ensure that aircraft refuelling operations are carried out in a safe manner, without incurring overly high costs or prohibitive restrictions.