March 2004
by John Gittins, P.E.

Interested in attracting more traffic to your regional airport? The availability of aircraft refueling services on a continuous (24/365) basis can be a feature that makes your facility more convenient to, and more frequently used by, aircraft operators. Fuel management systems are available that allow your facility to make retail sales around the clock on a self-serve basis.

Concerned about the increasing costs for the installation, re-certification, maintenance, management, environmental liability, and future closure of operating an underground storage and dispensing system? Aboveground storage and dispensing systems have evolved, and can offer a more cost effective option for providing aircraft refueling services.

Concerned that your fueling system needs may change and that you would be stuck with what you currently have? Aboveground systems are available that are easily relocatable, and also can be resold as “ready to plug in and use” systems.

Issues With Underground Systems The last five years have seen the lapse of regulatory compliance deadlines for various underground storage tank (UST) system features. Systems installed or upgraded to meet the December 1998 deadline for corrosion protection, overfill protection and spill protection have needed to upgrade again to meet more recent under-dispenser containment and enhanced leak detection requirements. Compliance with the more recent regulations has included the installation, maintenance and periodic testing of additional containment and release detection systems. Ongoing compliance for the tank and piping systems involve several components. First, inventory reconciliation, which includes integrity testing at a required frequency of once every one to three years. Other components are maintaining the detection equipment and records of compliance. Additionally, a written Monitoring Program and Response Plan are required for the operation of a UST system.

Installation of UST systems typically requires five to six weeks of field work for completion. Subsurface conditions, such as large boulders or a high water table, can significantly increase installation time and costs. A concrete pad is often needed over the UST. Although it increases the cost, installing the UST deep can sometimes avoid the need for a concrete pad over the tank. A concrete pad is needed around the tank fills, whether the tank fills are above the UST or remote to it. Fuel dispensers, and their fuel management systems, are typically mounted on a concrete fuel island and protected by crash posts.

Leak detection systems, and periodic integrity tests, give warning of a release from a UST system. These precautions do not eliminate the potential for a subsurface release of fuel from a UST system. Closure of UST systems requires the cleaning, removal and authorized disposal of the UST, piping, dispensing equipment, and any wastes generated during their cleaning. Soil samples, and sometimes groundwater samples, are collected and analyzed. A closure report must be prepared and submitted to the local regulatory agency, for determining if further action is required. If necessary, an investigation and remediation of contaminated soil and/or groundwater may be required.

Features With Aboveground Systems Aboveground storage tanks (AST) and dispensing systems have evolved to where they can be delivered to your facility ready to be “plugged in” and used. Systems such as those manufactured by Bryant Fuel Systems (Bakersfield, California) are completely assembled and tested at the factory. These systems are equipped with steel primary tanks attached to steel skid/dike secondary containment systems.

The dike system integrates a structural wall with the skid, to provide vehicle impact protection, including protection from winged aircraft. These skid-mounted systems do not need to have crash posts, concrete containment slab and concrete curbing installed, which makes it easy (and less costly) for their relocation.

These skid-mounted systems have all fuel-containing equipment within the system’s secondary containment. The tank, tank fill connections, dispensers, pumps, piping, and any leakage, are contained within the steel dike area and are easily inspected visually. System emergency shutdown push buttons are mounted on each tank system’s dike wall, at a proper distance from dispensers. Deadman controls in the hand of the person fueling the aircraft provide an immediate dispenser shut off. Explosion-proof area lighting can come already mounted on these systems, which provides safely use during hours of darkness. Site improvements prior to delivery typically include: electrical power from an existing circuit panel; communications/data line from existing telephone board; and sometimes paving. Connecting electrical conductors to the system’s control panel and communications/data cable to the fuel management system are the on-site tasks needed to have a running system.

Requirements for installing an AST and dispensing systems are generally delineated by your state or local fire authority. The local fire authority tends to follow one of the three most referenced national fire codes (NFPA, UFC, IFC). Annual registration fees for AST systems range from no fee to being similar to fees for UST systems.

A written Spill Prevention Controls and Countermeasures Plan is required for the operation of an AST system. Aboveground tanks require integrity testing once every ten years.

Aboveground refueling systems tend to have significantly lower installation costs in comparison to underground refueling systems. The costs to install an aboveground refueling system in Riverside County, California is found to be typically 20 percent lower than the costs to install a comparable underground refueling system.

Closure of AST systems varies from no requirements to requiring a few soil samples collected and analyzed from the soil beneath the system’s location. AST system’s (such as those manufactured by Bryant Fuel Systems) can be sold to be reused at another facility. Power is disconnected at the system’s control panel, the system is loaded onto a flatbed trailer, and the system is transported to the next owner’s facility.

Making Fuel Management Systems Work for You Fuel management systems are the key to cost savings in operating a refueling system. Systems (such as Fuel Master by Syn-Tech Systems, Inc.) are proven rugged and reliable in all sorts of environments. Fuel management systems allow for complete self-serve operations, or for quick completion of sale at the pump when providing full-serve operations. The system’s card reader can authorize credit card sales and/or billing account sales. Receipts can be provided at the fuel management system. Receipts can also be customized on-site with any message you wish to provide. A real-time on-site journal printer can provide hard copy backups of all transactions.

Fuel management software, loaded on a personal computer that is connected to the fuel management system, can also allow the easy creation of standard or customized reports. These reports can allow the operator to see month-to-date and year-to-date deliveries and transactions. The software allows for easy generation of customer invoices. The fuel management system features allow for labor savings from unattended self-served sales and easy customer invoicing.

Contact with customers during unattended self-serve sales can be provided by a telephone installed on the aboveground refueling system. The telephone can be programed to call the telephone number of customer service personnel upon lifting the handset from the receiver. The telephone will give the system users a person to speak to if they have questions or are experiencing problems. The fuel management system’s display can be programmed to post an instructive message for the user to read (such as “please fully retrieve fuel hose, deadman control and antistatic line in their reels”). Another safety feature the fuel management system can provide during unattended sales is its ability to limit the quantity of fuel to be dispensed per transaction.

Benefits Summary The availability or increased capacity of aircraft refueling can be a key to the growth of your airport. Phoenix Regional Airport (Phoenix, Arizona) has found that the availability of fuel at their facility has been very important in drawing attention to their airport. Most important, the amount of traffic to their airport for fuel has dramatically increased since they began advertising fuel availability on their website. Fuel management systems allow for cost-effective ways to provide continuous refueling services (24/365). System features allow for labor savings from unattended self-served sales and easy customer invoicing. A telephone installed at the refueling system can give the system users a person to speak to if they have questions or are experiencing problems. Full-serve sales can be completed quickly at the pump by using the fuel management system’s card reader and receipt printer.

The ability to easily relocate your aircraft refueling system has great value to lots of airport managers. Scott Ries, President of Phoenix Regional Airport, found this feature to be very important for the development of Phoenix Regional Airport. This has allowed them the ability to have aircraft refueling even before they have completed their facility’s master plan. He has deemed the aboveground refueling system necessary as a marketing tool for their airport. The elimination of a potential underground leak, by installing a skid/mounted aboveground refueling system (manufactured by Bryant Fuel Systems), was also a plus,

Cost differences for the installation of aboveground refueling systems compared to underground refueling systems can be 20 percent less. The labor and costs to keep an underground refueling system in regulatory compliance are much greater than those for an aboveground refueling system. Operating and maintaining an underground refueling system has a more extensive amount of regulations and requirements to follow in comparison with aboveground refueling systems. A big difference is also found in comparing the closure costs for USTs to the resale value of the skid/mounted aboveground systems.

How quick will be the installation costs payback period for a new aboveground refueling system at your facility? A recent look at the net sales price for 10011 and Jet A at a Southern California airport found 10011 at $1.14 per gallon and Jet A at $1.33 per gallon. That same airport (at its current fuel volume) is projecting a payback period of three months for two skid/mounted aboveground refueling systems being installed in March 2004.