DLA Energy helps deployed Marines customize fuel to their needs while in the field
By Connie Braesch
Oct. 26, 2018 —
Getting the high-quality fuel warfighters need to conduct their missions is not as straightforward as pulling up to a gas pump.
To ensure military aircraft, vehicles and equipment operate at peak performance, Defense Logistics Agency Energy relies on the injection of three additives into commercial jet fuel: icing inhibitor, corrosion inhibitor/lubricity improver and static dissipater.
“The additives prevent formation of ice in fuel, fight microorganism growth, reduce fuel-system corrosion problems, add lubricity, and improve ground safety during storage, transfer and issue,” said Samuel Cooks, energy initiatives program manager for DLA Energy’s Strategic Policy and Programs Directorate.
For enduring locations and defense fuel support points, suppliers normally inject the necessary additives before final delivery to a base, camp or station, Cooks explained. But sourcing military-specification fuel in an expeditionary environment on short notice or in small quantities can be tough.
“For small-scale requirements in remote locations or when commercial delivery of military-specification fuel isn’t available in the local market, on occasion the fuel must be additized on-site to sustain operations,” he said.
According to Marine Corps Forces Pacific, the Corps needs an expeditionary fuel additive injection system to address this critical capability gap. To help find a mission-capable solution, in fall 2017, the Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office partnered with DLA Energy.
“Facilitating development of this tactical capability helps enhance supply-chain resilience,” said Marine Corps Maj. Kelvin Chew, technology and experimentation analyst for the Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office. “This foraging capability supports expeditionary advanced base operations in a contested environment by allowing units to leverage commercial fuel stores to support a single fuel supply chain.”
While military aircraft, vehicles and equipment can use commercial-grade fuel, the inclusion of additives helps improve equipment performance and life span.
“It is important because it allows the aircraft to fly higher, faster without the worry of the water in fuel freezing up … and you don’t have to worry about ground vehicles overheating,” said Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer David Gentry, airfield officer in charge at Marine Wing Support Detachment 24.
“If operating in the colder climate, the static will build up, but the static dissipater will help remove it.”
“Anytime you’re talking about military aviation, you want them to perform at the top level,” said Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer Richard Cordes, liaison officer to the Naval Petroleum Office. “Yes, aircraft can use different grades of aviation fuel. But think of it like this: If you use one tank of lower-grade fuel in your vehicle, is it going to hurt it? No, not that one tank. But over prolonged time, it’s going to lessen the performance and life of that vehicle.”
Identifying a Solution
Sometimes timing or conditions mean the services have to buy commercial fuel and convert it in the field. Special equipment, training and quality-control measures are then needed.
"Right now, the Air Force and the Army do it on a sustainment-brigade level where they additize hundreds of thousands of gallons," Gentry said. "We’re looking to additize smaller quantities."
To develop the prototype system, the Expeditionary Mobile Fuel Additization Capability team turned to Hammonds Technical Services. Since 1986, the company has built equipment specifically for additive injection.
“The Army is the primary user of larger systems that handle bulk fuel on a larger scale. Those systems are basically mobile fuel farms,” said Jeff Hammonds, vice president of engineering and sales for the company. “The Marines came to us for something truly two-man portable, lightweight and smaller for lower product-delivery flow rates, so we took our commercially available equipment and implemented that small-scale design.”
Chew further emphasized the importance of the size and weight of the EMFAC system.
“The Army’s system weighs over 950 pounds and requires heavy equipment to move,” he said. “The one we’re building is just over 200 pounds. We’re taking an existing fuel additization system and downsizing it so it can be more expeditionary and mobile, and require a lighter footprint.” This means units in the field can customize their own blends of fuel, he explained.
Putting the System to the Test
The Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office has been training Marines from across the country on operating the system.
“We received a lot of feedback on this system, which has allowed us to improve the design — not just in the past few weeks but over the course of months,” Chew said. “We have made improvements so we have the best-informed design.”
In July, during the 2018 Rim of the Pacific exercise in Hawaii, the EMFAC portable additive injector system was put to the test in a full-scale exercise.
“RIMPAC is a huge operation involving many countries. So if we can use it in this type of environment, it gives us more of a real-world scenario where fuel that needs to be injected can go from inception all the way into the aircraft,” Cordes said.
Although testing during RIMPAC was led by the Marine Corps, the Army also participated. Marines and soldiers independently operated the EMFAC system to additize fuel trucks for use in a Forward Arming and Refueling Point at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii.
Exercise participants practiced using the system in countries where fuel didn’t meet military specifications, Cordes added. “With the system, we can inject the fuel with the needed additives, put it directly into an M-970 — which is a mobile refueler — take it forward and use it to refuel aircraft and equipment.”
The full-scale scenario required the Marines and soldiers to set up and calibrate the equipment, calculate additive amounts, give a thorough briefing of the operation, execute proper additization, recirculate the fuel, pull samples and run laboratory tests.
“Once we were satisfied the fuel met military specifications, we used the fuel on the runway to refuel operational aircraft,” Gentry said.
“The focus is on validating the systems’ performance and the users’ ability to safely operate the system in an operational environment during a live exercise,” Chew said. “They need to get acquainted with the environment and use the system without all the comforts and safeguards of being in a controlled environment like the base.”
Training and quality control were also a significant part of equipment testing, he added.
“Everyone involved was given familiarization training on the setup, calibration, operation, safe handling and troubleshooting of the injector system before every evolution of the testing,” Chew said. “The Marines and soldiers also received extensive training on fuels laboratory testing and quality specifications.”
DLA Energy quality assurance representatives played a key role in the delivery of commercial-grade fuel by monitoring the additization process and laboratory specification tests.
“We get involved with training the Marines and the Army for additive-injection processes and procedures that help them within their exercises and when they deploy,” said Jeffery Feltner, DLA Energy Pacific quality manager. “We go through the processes on how to sample the fuel, test it, and understand the premixing of additives and injection rates.”
The joint-service partnership has been invaluable, and the presence of DLA Energy QARs enabled the Marines to learn more about fuel than they would have otherwise, Chew added.
“We have identified what could go wrong, how to mitigate risks, and the roles and responsibilities of the EMFAC team,” he added. “To be able to demonstrate that the Marines are capable of additizing fuel on their own in an austere environment is a great success.”
“From when the Urgent Universal Need Statement was signed in December 2017 to where we are now has been a pretty fast process for [such] a complex operation,” he added. “Now it’s just refining the process.”
The Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office plans to take the feedback and lessons gathered throughout the training and testing and incorporate them into its field procedures and training guides.
“Before it’s released to operating forces, we must ensure they have the proper documentation and procedures to follow,” Chew said. “Eventually, we hope to integrate fuel additization into our Petroleum Laboratory Specialist Course at the Marine Corps Bulk Fuel School at Fort Lee [Virginia].”
Cordes, the senior Marine Corps fuels officer, is working with all the stakeholders to report the feedback to DLA and to Headquarters Marine Corps.
“This capability is extremely critical,” he said. “This system gives the Marine Corps that secondary ability if DLA can’t source the military-specification fuel we need in the area we’re operating.”
While the capability is needed, Cordes, Gentry and Chew agreed the preference is to use DLA-provided fuel.
“Our intent is not to replace DLA Energy’s role,” Chew said. “It’s to train Marines and soldiers to do this in contingency operations where MILSPEC fuel isn’t available.”
As the Department of Defense executive agent for bulk fuel, DLA Energy’s goal is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the fuel supply chain, Cooks added.
“To be clear, DLA Energy is not moving away from procuring and delivering MILSPEC fuels. Yet, this capability gives the services a portable, small-scale solution addressing the historic gap between requirements generation and when DLA Energy can deliver a MILSPEC product,” said Army Col. Doug Henry, former DLA Energy chief of staff. “We look forward to helping the Marines and the other military services innovate this rapid-deployment injection capability to increase lethality through greater supply-chain resiliency and strengthen readiness postures to meet global requirements.”
In the coming months, Chew said his office will continue to work with Marines across the nation to familiarize them with the process.
“We’re going to continue experimentation and work with wing and ground units to expand the exposure and gain more advocacy and requirements from the fleet,” he said. “As we look forward at venues where operating forces can train to maintain this capability, we’ll ensure they stay proficient so when they need to use this for its intended purpose, they aren’t starting from scratch.”
The Marine Corps 7th Engineer Support Battalion at Camp Pendleton, California, plans to conduct another full-scale EMFAC test next spring during Operation Pacific Blitz, Chew said.