Nigerian professor makes first-of-its-kind discovery on aviation fuel handling in Sub-Saharan Africa

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Nigerian professor makes first-of-its-kind discovery on aviation fuel handling in Sub-Saharan Africa

By: Onifade Bello A.


Albert Olayemi, a Professor of Microbiology and a former Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, has made a scientific discovery in the microbiological analysis of aviation fuel and fuel handling systems, in a bid to enhance the quality of fuel supply to the nation’s aviation sector.

In his research titled “Microbial Contamination of JetFuel and Fuel Handling Systems”, the University don urged quality control agencies to intensify monitoring to enhance the quality of supply to the aviation industry while also recommending, among others, that microbiological standards be incorporated into the specification requirements of Jet A1/allied products.

The research which has been described as the first-of-its-kind in Sub-Saharan Africa has been recently published on Amazon and said to be gathering powerful critical commendations in national and international media.

Sponsored and commissioned under the aegis of CITA Petroleum Limited, Lagos, the research was aimed at assessing microbial contamination of aviation fuel and fuel handling system at CITA Petroleum Tank Farms located in Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Abuja. It was revealed from the study that contaminated fuel is one of the causes of equipment failure, which is the second leading cause of plane crashes globally, after pilot errors.

Professor Olayemi, however, said though the work might not be enough to establish microbiological quality standards to classify Nigerian fuel (aviation) and fuel handling system, it is nonetheless a first approach to underscore the importance of microbial contamination in aviation fuel and safety. Based on the findings of the study, the don recommends that the current practice of removing accumulated bottom water be sustained, coupled with periodic tank cleaning.

The professor said, “Although it may be difficult to prevent microbial contamination because of the impossibility of maintaining sterile conditions in the farm tanks and during transportation, its negative effects can be diminished.” He also noted that combined monitoring and preventive action costs would normally be less than the costs associated with crises response strategy.

Six points on the storage facilities were selected for sampling which included the bulk fuel, the oil-water surface, the bottom water, the inlet and discharge filters as well as sludge from the separation tanks and environmental surfaces. Samples were collected on three different occasions between September 2014 and May 2015; representing rainy, harmattan and onset of rainy season, in order to appraise the effect of seasonality on the detection and frequency of occurrence of the microbial contaminants.

Owing to the potentials of the study and possible impacts on the global aviation industry, Professor Olayemi has been invited by the International Air Transport Association (IATA); to make a presentation at the forthcoming Aviation Systems Management Symposium, scheduled to be hosted by IATA between 15 and 20 April 2018, in Miami, Florida, USA.

The don, at the presentation of the research report in Lagos,  commended the management of CITA Petroleum for compliance with the numerous industry and company’s proprietary Policies, Standards and Procedure (PSP) covering the entire supply storage and distribution chain.

Having taken samples from CITA tank farms at various locations, the study indicated that microbial contamination has been contained within the IATA guidelines; which ensure that fuel is on-specification at point of delivery to aircraft.

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