The Middle East's aviation industry is set for unprecedented expansion. Critical to this growth is an array of support services, without which further up-scaling would be impossible. The Middle East's aircraft refuelling business is a case in point and Air BP, which provides aviation fuel and related services to more than 1150 locations across 75 countries, is a key stakeholder in this development.
Commenting on Air BP's role in the region, CEO Rita Griffin says: "The regional airline business is booming and Air BP is at the heart of this growth, applying leading technologies to continue to develop our range of fuels and lubricants to meet our customers' growing needs. We work with the latest in aviation and are proud of our association with leading airports, airlines and manufacturers, including Airbus and their A380 aircraft. With some three million refuellings a year, we have the capability and technology to keep the Middle East flying high.
Indeed, Air BP has established relations with the Middle East, dating back to 1932 when the company supplied fuel for Imperial Airways. The airline was operating passenger and mail services from the UK through to India and Australia. Today, Air BP's Middle East assets cover the UAE, Bahrain, Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Oman.
In the UAE, the company has worked at Dubai International Airport for more than four decades, serving some 70 customers, including Emirates, and delivering 210 million gallons of fuel annually. The company has also been stationed in Sharjah since 1932, supplying fuel to low-cost carrier Air Arabia in recent years. Its interest extends to a 49% stake in Sharjah Aviation Service Co. (SASCO). Elsewhere, Air BP owns shares in Emdad, a US$40 million storage and pipeline facility that connects Jebel Ali to Dubai International Airport. The company also holds shares in Anabeeb, a US$32 million jet fuel facility designed to boost Sharjah International Airport's operational capabilities.
According to the company's management, Air BP's chalet at Dubai Airshow 2007 reflected its strong regional presence. Several senior executives attended, including AbdulKarim Al Mazmi, president of BP Middle East, and Thorsten Luft, Air BP's asset manager for the Middle East and South Asia. During the show, the directors discussed several issues, including future civil aviation trends in the Middle East. Developing an infrastructure to provide a seamless and environmentally friendly service to airlines and passengers alike was also on the agenda.
"The Dubai Airshow was a premier event in the aviation calendar and attendees will have seen Air BP staff and equipment everywhere, always ensuring safe and on-time fuelling," Luft says. "It's a privilege to work across the region at a time when we can all see the growth in the airline business and feel the impact it has on the economy. We continue to partner with the aviation industry, applying our core values of safety, operations, people and capabilities.
In November, Air BP fuelled Airbus' A380 super-jumbo during the five day event. Since then, it has broken the Dubai airport refuelling record when it replenished an A380 before its long-haul flight from Toulouse to Melbourne. The Air BP team uplifted 219,921 litres of fuel, beating the 213,604 litres record in 2004 for a single-aircraft. To complete the exercise, two fuel dispensers were used simultaneously, without interruption, for 53 minutes each.
"Air BP champions the latest in aviation fuel technology and we work hard to produce the most efficient, safe and clean fuel and lubricants as possible so that our aviation customers can be confident in their fleets' performance," Luft says. Air BP is proud to be a leading supplier of aviation fuel, lubricants and services to the Airbus A380.
During the show, Air BP unveiled its emission-free environmentally friendly refuelling (EFRV) vehicle. The EFRV, which was showcased for the first time in the Middle East, is an electric battery-powered vehicle that reduces CO2 emissions by 100%. It also cuts down the volume of fluid wastes, such as engine oils and coolants, by one ton.
Luft: "This technology has made its regional debut at Dubai Airshow and coincides with a period of strong growth for the region's aviation sector, which is also investing in environmentally-friendly practices in line with the global industry's effort to reduce emission levels. Air BP has invested significantly in the development of our EFRV and will continue to do so in every aspect of our business in line with Air BP's brand values and principles and its strategy of alternative energy sources."
Each EFRV is powered by a 96-volt DC motor attached to the standard Isuzu manual transmission. The battery bank is charged from electricity mains at off-peak times, taking between two to four hours. On board solar panels charge two 12 or 24 volt batteries, which in turn power the brake interlock system, lights, hydraulic power pack and small air compressor. Any surplus power from these solar panels is directed to the main 96-volt battery bank. "The lack of standards for electric vehicles reinforced the need to carry out a thorough review showing that the vehicle would be able to meet the stringent standards required by the aviation refuelling industry," says Ulhas Mehta, manager for Air BP Engineering in the Middle East.
Air BP's role in the region's aviation industry was also highlighted when the company launched the Misfueling Prevention Campaign during the air show. The awareness raising campaign alerted airport support staff to the dangers of filling aircraft. It also set out processes and procedures that can help prevent accidents. If an Avgas-powered aircraft is inadvertently refuelled with jet fuel, there may be enough Avgas in the aircraft's fuel lines and carburetors to enable taxiing, run up and take off.
When the jet fuel reaches the engine, often at a critical time during take off, it could fail, leading to a forced landing or crash. A similar situation can occur when Avgas is fed into an aircraft, which should have been refuelled using jet fuel. Fortunately, the consequences are usually less serious. However, some jet fuel-powered aircraft are not approved to use Avgas as an alternative fuel.
Avgas and jet fuel don't mix: every year several aircraft across the globe are filled with the incorrect grade of fuel. Air BP was concerned by continued reports of incidents and aircraft crashes resulting from incorrect filling.
Prasad Ayyakad, regional operations manager for Air BP, said: "The wrong grade of fuel can be deadly. When it comes to fuel grades, never speculate. Our campaign focuses on providing users who are involved in aircraft refuelling, whether refuelling staff, airline engineers or pilots, six simple steps to ensure their aircraft is never mis-fuelled."
According to Luft, helping clients avoid fuelling errors is an ongoing objective. "Air BP is a leading supplier of aviation fuels and service, carrying out more than three million refuelling operations every year," he says. "We partner with our customers to ensure best practices are followed, and to uphold the highest levels of safety. The Misfueling Prevention Campaign is just one initiative that Air BP runs to share its knowledge and enhance the safety in the industry for all concerned.
"At the Dubai Airshow, Air BP refuelled many planes, including the A380 and private jets," Luft says. "It was a busy time for the airport. We re-iterated the message that when it comes to fuel grades, never speculate. You should always make sure," he adds.
Air BP is represented at some 1200 airports across more than 90 countries, with local offices in almost half. According to the company's management, having local representation enables BP to develop strong relations with customers, airport operators and third parties.
Elsewhere, the company provides project consultancy, financing and procurement services. Its operation includes research and laboratory centres, and training and emergency response teams.