Phase-out of Avgas 100LL is getting closer

Latest situation report by IAOPA

What is currently happening in the USA and Europe on the matter? There is no doubt that the time of leaded Avgas 100LL is coming to an end. On the one hand, there are  environmental arguments against it, and on the other hand, there is only one manufacturer of the lead-containing additive tetra-ethyl lead (TEL) left in the world, and it is most likely no longer willing to invest in new plants in view of steadily declining sales volumes. The risk for our global industry in the event of the failure of this one manufacturer's production plant is enormous.

During the IAOPA World Assembly in Washington in May 2024, participants from all over the world were able to hear directly from FAA Director Bruce DeCleene how the authorities in the USA envisage the transition to 100-octane unleaded avgas. The transition is to take place by 2030 at the latest, or even earlier as soon as unleaded avgas is ready for introduction on the market. The two FAA-funded programs PAFI (Piston Engine Aviation Fuels Initiative) and EAGLE (Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions) are moving towards their goal.



           AVGAS 100 LL is facing an uncertain future.  

© shutterstock, Richard Thornton

It was also exciting to hear from the three remaining competitors from the mineral oil industry about how they are positioning themselves for the market launch, which is obviously about securing pole position in the US market, which dominates in terms of volume. Only once this has been secured will the introduction of the fuel in Europe, the second largest market, and elsewhere be considered.

One thing is clear: only one supplier will remain on the market, the fastest. The other two will probably have to write off their investments. There is currently a debate as to whether GAMI's fuel is actually ready for the market. GAMI co-founder George Braly has put it this way: We have the STC for all aircraft types, we have full tanks in our refinery and we can start delivering tomorrow. However, the two GAMI competitors, who will probably still need a few months before their fuels are approved, point out that there are still unresolved issues with GAMI avgas, for example in connection with airfield tanks and fuel trucks, which would prevent an immediate market launch.

All IAOPA representatives agree that lead in our fuel must go, but also that a continuous fuel supply is essential for our industry in the critical transition phase to a lead-free alternative. A corresponding resolution entitled “Supporting the Implementation of Unleaded Avgas”, which calls for international coordination of the authorities, was introduced by AOPA-Germany and adopted unanimously at the IAOPA World Assembly.

In Europe, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), based in Helsinki, will decide in June 2024 on the applications of the three companies Shell, Trafigura/Puma and Warter to continue blending the additive TEL. The aim of these companies is to continue producing Avgas 100LL in Europe until lead-free avgas alternatives become available. If their requests are granted, we can expect an orderly transition to unleaded avgas.

In order to achieve this goal, we as IAOPA, together with the GAMA and Europe Air Sports associations, have repeatedly and clearly stated our position to the ECHA in the public hearings and also forwarded the IAOPA resolution at short notice. However, if these industry requests are not granted by the ECHA, Avgas 100LL would no longer be allowed to be produced in Europe from May 2025, although imports would still be possible and feasible despite logistical difficulties. Industry insiders tell us that there were phases a few decades ago when Avgas 100LL was imported directly from the USA to Europe. This would be possible again, but would unfortunately be associated with a price increase, and the environment would not be helped by the additional transportation routes.

 
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